Sometimes I have to bury myself to feel alive. That’s what the isolation tank is a like for me, it’s a private, self-inflicted burial. I close the door and entomb myself in a Stygian crypt. But this post isn’t about the mysteries of isolation tanks. I’ll save that topic for another time.
This post is about a different kind of burial–one above ground under the hot summer sun–and the curious resurrection that accompanies it. This post is about running hill repeats. Today, my barefoot marathon training schedule commanded me to run 90 seconds up hill at 80%-90% max heart rate with 90 second recovery for 30 minutes. On the first climb, I watched my heart-rate leap from 112 to 157 in a very short time. Breathing was troublesome. Soon I was wheezing hard. By the third repeat my heart-rate reached 175 and that’s when the panic set in. My hissing, gasping, wheezing lungs would not drag in anymore air. The houses spun around and the street became a rolling wave. I couldn’t catch my breath, it felt like I was breathing through a straw that was getting smaller and smaller. Am I having a heatstroke. No, what if it’s asthma- or a heart attack-I could die–OMG, I could drop dead right here!!!! This is dangerous. I should stop running. Should ask this lady to call an ambulance? and so on.Slowly as I jogged downhill, my breath returned. I was tempted to stop doing the repeats but quitting my repeats would have been a huge mistake. Instead of giving into the temptation to walk, I just forced myself to slow down whenever my heart-rate reached 152–I found that when I slowed at 152 it still climbed to 157 or 158, but those ranges are in my target zone, so the gasping and wheezing were tolerable. As long as I staid in my target zone of 80%-90% of max, I would be safe. The wheezing didn’t stop completely and the running wasn’t easier, but it all became uncomfortably bearable and I was able to finish my 30 minute repeats. After my run, I felt fantastic! I was reborn. I can’t wait to train tomorrow. Come back to find out what’s next.
I didn’t at all expect this. Typically, I don’t care about Vo2 Max, Yasso 800s, negative splits, or any other speed based racing lingo. I ignore competition because I just like to run. Instead of focusing on speed or competition, I customarily look to weekly mileage. For me, running is about spinning the earth steadily and rhythmically in quiet solitude. It’s not about gagging or choking on my own breath.
I can’t say why I’ve decided to change my routine. Maybe I’m just bored, or maybe I just want to punish myself for working somewhat steady hours. Whatever the reason, in order to slice open the belly of my performance and dissect it like a frog, I bought a heart monitor and a wrist GPS gizmo.
This morning, before work, I tracked my first marathon training run with my Garmen wrist GPS. Incidentally, today, the last Sabbath of June, marks the very first day of my Boring Marathon Training Program. Appropriately, Sundays are my marathon training rest days, which means that I’m supposed to do Yoga or Pilates instead of pounding my toes and bones on the stoney streets. Why did I run on a rest day? Good question. It was symbolic, more importantly it raised my weekly mileage to 25 miles.
When my heart rate monitor arrives Tuesday, I’ll sync it with my GPS wristband. I must admit that I feel a little guilty using a heart rate monitor and a GPS device to inspect my runs. The use of electric technology seems so un-barefoot like. That said, I know that the Barefoot Deities don’t mind, for they approve of all knowledge that maketh a man swift and sturdy.
This ends my first day of marathon training–2 miles, it wasn’t much. Even so, I’ll continue to post my training each day. Come back tomorrow.
I usually don’t like organized running races. Mostly because I consider running to be a solitary sport. I always run alone. This year, however, I’m making an exception for I am entering two races. The first is the Welches Huckleberry Half in August. This looks like a super fun race because Bigfoot will be there! And every finisher gets a fancy laser-cut medal!
The other race I’m running this year is the fantastically obscure Boring Marathon. Why the Boring Oregon Marathon and not the World Famous Portland Oregon Marathon? First of all, Portland is forty five minutes away from me, Boring is only fifteen minutes away. Second, Boring is a fun place to run. One racer from Boring wrote: “I was out running in the area the other day and a goat from a local farm came out and ran with me for about half a mile.” How could any barefoot runner resist that? I drive through Boring Oregon every Sunday on my way to work. It’s a cute and quirky town with lots of open space farms and fields. There’s children’s theater house that also hosts terrible local events. One time they held a “Craft Fair.” Aside from a few homemade candies that didn’t smell fresh and some handmade cards that didn’t look original, there were no crafts to speak of. At one of the booths a homeless looking woman spread out all of the junk from her shopping cart: hubcaps, filthy plates with cracks and chips, a broken blender with rusty mixer blades, torn dresses with weird stains, smelly sneakers with holes in them, and other unusable, unsalable items.
But this post isn’t about homeless women at craft fairs. It’s about joining the running community, shod and unshod alike. As I train my powerful feet for the upcoming races, I will do my best to pretend that this is actually a blog about barefoot running and will post my training updates daily.
BTW, I’m shooting for a modest 3 hour 45 min.ish finish for the marathon (as long as I break four hours, I’ll be happy). I don’t have a target time for the Hucklberry Half Marathon. I’m running that one solely for the Bigfoot medal–every finisher gets one.
Amid the sultry sticky gloom, I stroll through derelict East Village of Vancouver, British Columbia. (Forgive the florid prose, it won’t last.) Soon, I stumble across a bronze statue of two barefoot runners. Oh, wait! They aren’t barefoot. They have cleats attached to the thin fabric encasing their feet.
What on earth are these lanky runners doing on this side of town? Turquoise blotches surround the graceful serif lettering on the plaque. As I read the inscription, the mysterious pieces neatly snap into place. I am standing on hallowed ground; this is where thousands of fans cheered as they witnessed an epic race between two of the fastest men on the planet. It is one of the “Six Most Dramatic Events in Sports History“.
Who are these runners? Roger Bannister & John Landy.
Anyone who listens to Anthony Robbins, Marshall Sylver, or any other motivational speaker is familiar with Roger Bannister. At age 25, Bannister accomplished an impossible athletic feat. On May 6th, 1954, he became the first human being to run a mile in less than four minutes. He achieved his record breaking time of 3 minutes 59.4 seconds at the Iffley Road track in Oxford. Sports enthusiasts refer to his remarkable accomplishment as the “miracle mile“.
Anyone who listens to Anthony Robbins, Marshall Sylver, or any other motivational speaker will be entirely ignorant of John Landy. Probably because Landy fell between the cracks of history. A few weeks after Bannister set the record for the fastest human mile, John Landy, smashed it with a time of 3 minutes 57.9 seconds in Turku, Finland.
This set the stage for the ‘mile of the century‘ at the Empire Games in Vancouver.
Both men had conflicting running styles and training philosophies. Roger Bannister was known for his phenomenal ability as a “kicker”. His talent for hotfooting on the last lap was legendary. His final lap was always faster than the previous three, it was this strategy that allowed him to zoom past the four minute barrier. Bannister’s training system was to workout lightly and stay fresh. In fact, his breakthrough for the sub-four-minute-mile was discovering that rest periods were the key to faster times. His rest days gave him time to reflect on meaning of running: “[Running] gives a man or woman the chance to bring out power that might otherwise remain locked away inside. …The more restricted our society and work become, the more necessary it will be to find some outlet for this craving for freedom.”
Landy’s approach to running was poles apart, he was a front runner and he trained hard, never letting up. His tactics for racing were also different. Landy liked to build unbeatable leads by smoking the competition from the beginning of the race. He said, “The mile has a classic symmetry. It’s a play in four acts.” It was a boring play because Landy’s acts were all the same. Being a front runner made sense to Landy, “I just like to run fast.” He also wrote, “We run, not because we think it is doing us good, but because we enjoy it and cannot help ourselves. It also does us good because it helps us to do other things better. It gives a man or woman the chance to bring out power that might otherwise remain locked away inside. The urge to struggle lies latent in everyone.”
Which mortal would achieve glory and victory at the Empire Games, Landy or Bannister?
In the early part of the race, Landy took the lead. Bannister hung way back in third place. He planned to run easily through the third lap, but became nervous when Landy shot so far ahead. Bannister stepped up his pace after the second lap. This was not his typical style, he preferred to run hard on the last lap, not the last two laps. “With great poise, he spread his effort evenly over the entire third lap. In the middle of the backstretch he had cut Landy’s frightening lead in half.” When the bell rang to mark the last lap, Landy was clearly head of the pack, with Bannister chasing close. In front and on his way to proving that he was faster than Bannister, Landy made a colossal mistake. He turned his head to check on Bannister. That fraction of second was enough for Bannister to use his powerful “kick.” He beat Landy by a shoulder and won the race in 3:58.8, against Landy’s 3:59.6.
I look again at the statue on the delinquent side of town. It commemorates the moment Bannister passed Landy. I stare at John Landy. He is forever looking over the wrong shoulder as Bannister rushes past him. He’s frozen in bronze in second place forever. The statue irks me. The Vancouver Games were Landy’s to lose. And that’s exactly what he did. Landy lost because he was running against Bannister instead of running against himself.
Let’s face it, John Landy ran the mile faster than Bannister ever could. Bannister’s best mile, the one he ran against Landy at the Empire Games, was 3 minutes 58.8 seconds. Landy’s best mile was 3 minutes 57.9 seconds. So even though, Landy wasn’t the first human to run a sub-four-minute-mile and even though he lost the mile of the century, he was still faster than Bannister.
It’s tragic, Bannister retired after his victory ending his running career on the highest of notes, while Landy raced on and continued to lose race after race. Eventually, Landy burnt out and injured his Achilles tendon. His running career fizzled out.
After gazing at the statue, I search for the track. As I step toward the field, I see weeds jumping up around the cyclone fences, I wretch from the stink of rotting fish guts. The busy street buzzes with traffic. I wince when I hear the loud shout of a semi-truck’s air-horn blaring at a rusty Toyota. The once glorious track is dilapidated and barely recognizable. It’s fenced off in chain links. It reminds me of a prison yard. Like the rest of city, it decays. The track markers and rings are wiped out. The event center is filled with carnival rides. It is a forlorn amusement park. Looking at the place now, it’s hard to believe that it was here that two of the world’s fastest men ran the “Mile of the Century.”
The current fastest mile record is held by Moroccan Hicham El Guerrouj, who ran a time of 3 minutes 43.13 seconds in Rome, Italy, on 7 July 1999.
Last summer, I reached my goal of running a 10 miler once a week with 3-5 milers on my other run days. I did so with much effort and to be quite honest my 10 mile pace was pathetically slow. After my long runs, I would “treat” myself to beer and pizza. It would take me a full day and a half to recover from my long run and I would still be a little stiff on my subsequent run.
This summer, I’m running 10 milers 3 minutes faster than last summer and I’m running 5-7 miles on my light days!!! I am no longer plagued by the nuisances of last summer’s long runs. No sluggish running pace, no more pizza cravings, and no more bent-over-elderly-man-with-a-secret-knife-and-flask-cane exhaustion.
What is my secret? What have I changed?
I no longer defileth my body. I’m eating REAL food, recovering faster, and I’ve lost fat and built lean muscle. I gobble as many fresh fruits and vegetables as I care to eat throughout the day. For dinner, I enjoy brown rice and beans with assorted vegetables or quinoa or sweet potatoes or some other homemade vegan dish.
BTW, I DO take 3 KEY SUPPLEMENTS (not present in a vegan diet):
Vitamin D (I use in for the gray cloudy days in Oregon)
DHA (Dr. Bernard recommends it in Power Foods for the Brain)
The results are amazing. I no longer crave junk food. My hair, teeth, and skin are radiant. I have more energy and my recovery for running is absolutely fantastic. I feel twenty years younger! I’m in better shape now than when I was 18. Best of all, I haven’t lost any muscle. I have been eating this way since Christmas.
If you’re interested in giving healthful eating a try, here are a few plant based running resources:
In the middle of my training for a barefoot half marathon, I discovered that the old path was lost. Though I did NOT awaken in a dark wood, new thoughts splashed through the volatile chemical cocktail of my mind. The sexy electronic voice of the RunKeeper lady announced, “Time: blah blah minutes, blah blah Seconds. Distance: blah blah miles.” When she finished speaking, the adolescent voice of a blue haired, nose ringed teenage boy filled the void.
“Hey, where are your shoes guy?”
If you have read this blog at all, you will know those words bring out the Hulk in me. I created a podcast and wrote some posts about some of my kick-ass comebacks to that annoying question. (On New Years, I came close to punching a jerk who kept harassing me during my morning run.) But I ignored teenager this time. As he stood there blinking, his mouth slightly agape, I took a deep sip of the crisp Oregon air and realized that barefoot running has taught me three crucial lessons about my world.
The same terrain isn’t always the same.
The ever changing textures and temperature that the same patch of ground offers amazes me. The same route offers many varied delights that change according to the time of day, the weather, and the stride. Shod runners completely miss the world of sensations beneath their feet.
Crossing Comfort Zones Can Make Some People Cross.
When most adults see barefoot runners, they tend to assume that there is something wrong with the barefoot runner, not with their world view. Because they can’t run without shoes or or because they know nothing about barefoot running, they assume that what is true for them should be true for everyone else. That said, I have had interesting conversations with people who were genuinely interested in barefoot running. Breaking out of the comfort zone is good for your sole (Yes, I totally abuse that homophone). Every success I’ve enjoyed forced me to step outside the cozy prison of comfort.
I’m much stronger than I think. When my gaze hits the rough concrete before it gently lands on my feet, I marvel that my body can withstand the impacts of the unforgiving concrete. But it does. My feet, in fact, thrive on the hard pavement. I find it’s easier to run on asphalt than it is to run on the graveled part of the Tickle Creek Trail. Of course, the asphalt is not as soft as mud or grass, but it’s relatively comfortable, when your soles are up for it.
If you’ve never tried running without shoes, give it a try. Here are some resources to get started safely:
With my previous job, I got so busy I missed the tragic news about Born to Run legend Micah True (aka “Caballo Blanco“.)
It’s odd that someone I’ve never met or spoken to could have such a monumental influence on my life. You wouldn’t be reading this blog if it weren’t for Micha True’s manic itch to run crazy distances in even crazier terrain with the Raramuri.
That’s NOT hyperbole. I’m a barefoot runner because of Caballo Blanco. If it weren’t for him, MacDougal may never have written the bestselling bookBorn to Run and I wouldn’t have kicked off my shoes to run again.
Since I am slightly Irish, I give this famous blessing to the fallen Caballo Blanco.
May the road rise to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face.
And rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the hollow of His hand.
(And by “God” I mean “universe”; and by “meet again,” I mean “meet at all in the great beyond.” And “Yes!” This is blessing given to the living. But all that crap ruins the rhyme scheme and sentiment. Somehow, I think Micah understands or would have understood, and he would have shown that understanding with a quick nod of his dusty head and a fleeting smile across his cracked lips, before he said, “Run Free, Brother, Run Free.”)
Have you always wanted to run a half marathon? Most people can achieve the feat. Unfortunately, many programs don’t give barefoot runners enough time to recuperate. This regime gives a person one day of rest between runs. The rest periods allow for recovery, thickening of the foot pads, and time to write blog posts. This program is also good for a person who is transitioning into minimalist/ “barefoot” shoes.
Maybe you ran a full marathon in 2011 and just want t take it easy this summer. Maybe you’re wondering which barefoot running shoes work best. You might ask yourself questions such as, “Are there running shoes for mid to long distances?”
Sandals are my personal choice for all distances. BUT I did buy a pair of Merrel Road Gloves for work and I love how comfortable they are. Vibrams five fingers suck!!!! They look stupid, they stink, and they give satanic blisters. They are the pandora’s box of running shoes. Next to sandals, Merrell’s are dang good. Enough five fingers, sports shoes, barefeet, running without shoes keyword stuffing. Onto the program: