Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is in its own way a latch-key teenager girl with braces standing on the front porch hurling insipid insults at me as I walk by on day 9 of my marathon training. No, I wasn’t cheating by walking on a training day. And, Yes, the girl was real. Why then was I walking and not running? Today is NOT a run day, it’s strength day. I like to supplement my strength days with three to four mile jaunts around the neighborhood. As I passed a green a townhouse a shrill adolescent female voice shouted an ugly insult at me from across the street. I won’t repeat the invective. I pretended not to hear her, but I slowly doubled back. I’m glad I did. As soon as I reached her house, her mom pulled into the driveway. I took the golden opportunity to inform the mother about her daughter’s unfortunate comments. It was beautiful timing. I got a well deserved apology. I don’t think the girl was a cruel person, just young and impetuous.
Whatever happens, I stuck to my training. When I arrived home, I lunged, lifted, squatted my way through Jillian Michael’s Thirty Day Shred.
I didn’t want to get out of bed at five thirty this morning. I was too comfortable. Besides my legs were a little sore and I didn’t sleep well. It is by will alone I set my mind in motion…Once I got my ass out from under the sheets, I strapped my on running sandals, but the damned cord snapped. If you don’t own running sandals, then you don’t how much it motherfuckingsucks to retie them. It’s a fine art to get the delicate tension just right, especially when you’re using the “permanent knot” method. After fidgeting, cussing, and igniting the knot with a match*, I realized that had another impediment to overcome: my GPS needed to be reprogrammed. I needed to update my intervals. Thankfully, the update went smoothly. Even so, I was frustrated because I was on a tight schedule. I need to get my runs before work. If I don’t run before work, the run hangs over my head like a well fed elephant. It also means that I’ll be stuck running in the heat or if it’s too hot, then waiting until eight or nine, which means going to bed at ten or eleven, skipping meditation and reading.
Fortunately, I was able to get out of door at a reasonable time. I had to force myself to break into a jog: It is by will alone I set my mind in motion… Once I cleared a few streets with my freshly tied sandals and my GPS programmed, I had a good run:
After a two mile warm-up, I ran ten sets of intervals: 2 minute fast (80-90% effort) with 1 minute recovery. All told, I ran over six miles. Some of the intervals were unintentionally uphill. I didn’t plan them that way, it’s just the path of my regular running route. I don’t get much recovery uphill, but it tones the fuck out of my heart without staining my lips–for lip staining, I need the juice of sapho.
It is the day of the Mentat. This post it just to let you know that I’m still training. Check back tomorrow, perhaps there will be some of Paul-Muad’Dib’s wisdom.
* Setting fire to the knot shrinks it, thereby saving your foot from excessive agony.
More than once I’ve asked myself whether I shall turn out to be the Superman or the Lex Luther of my own life. Each of us are given a fist full of earth. Some plant gardens, other throw mud pies, and some let the dirt slip between their fingers. Of course, we weren’t given the earth, we emerged from it. This planet truly is our mother. As the miles slide by, the bullshit of normal life lifts and there is nothing but breath: time dilates and contracts by its own weird logic. Today, I ran 7.4 blissful miles. What does tomorrow hold? Check back to find out.
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 remember hesitating before clicking the order button. I didn’t know it then, but this was the moment that would change everything, the very thing that would force me to write a yet another shameless product plug—-> Polar FT7 Heart Rate Monitor. That’s the heart rate monitor I ordered from Amazon last week. I’m happy to report that it arrived today! After removing it from the box, I went straight to Polar’s Website, watched the get started video and set up the shiny new mirror of my heart. The controls are fairly intuitive. Once it was squared away, I tore off my shirt, poured cold water over the contact points of the monitor and strapped it on. Then I sauntered without shoes through the simmering country streets.
It was fun to watch my heart rate rise and fall as I strode barefoot around the neighborhood. I was surprised to discover how often I misjudged my heart-rate. For example, I like to do handstands throughout the day. Not only do the handstands relieve the gravitation pressure on my spine, but they also round my shoulders and make me feel young. I assumed that the handstands would jack-up my heart rate significantly. I was wrong. They did not!!! In fact, a handstand only raised my heart rate by a few beats. Whereas a super easy jog across the flat street raised my heart rate by almost ten beats.
I couldn’t figure out why my handstands didn’t raise my heart-rate. As I said, I really felt like I was expending more effort doing them. Then I realized that strength is separate from cardio. To really prove that strength is not cardio, I did twenty push-ups. My heart rate only climbed up two beats. The effort I felt doing the push-ups was significant. Then I marched in place for twenty seconds, my heart rate increased by ten beats. I did NOT feel that I was expending as much effort marching in place as I did when I was doing the push-ups. Strength training really and truly doesn’t do much for your heart. I knew that, but I didn’t KNOW it until I saw it my silver display.
But the big eye opener for me was realizing how much faster my heart beats when I’m standing as opposed to sitting. Seated it beats around 44 bpm, standing it jumps to 60 bpm. Guess which position burns more calories?
Incidentally, in addition to my easy one hour walk and heart-rate experiments, I did Week One of Jillian Michaels Ripped in 30 Workout. Technically Jillian’s Program is not entirely strength training because it has some short cardio intervals, I am not, however, concerned. It’s my wife’s DVD and it does have weightlifting segments, so I’m using it for all of my strength training days.
I didn’t think I would like wearing my heart on my wrist, but it’s really enjoyable. Tomorrow, I’ll be running uphill at top speed for 90 second intervals. See you then.
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.
I was killing time at work when I came across this fantastic story about Zola Budd, the barefoot running woman who twice broke the women’s 5000 meter world record. The story gave me some much needed encouragement. At the age of 47, Zola Budd still dominates runners half her age. She recently competed with college runners and beat all of them, winning the 5k race with a lead of 50 seconds! What an inspiration.
I love her take on running:
“Running is … part of your life… Whatever happens, it’s fine. Just go along with the flow. Take the bad runs with the good runs. Make an experience of it. Don’t be too goal-oriented.”
I was baptized as a Catholic, I was partially raised Catholic, I took Catholic Communion, but I am NOT Catholic. Why then, am I tempted to pray to Saint Sebastian?
It all started a few weeks ago. It was a frigid, rainy day in Sandy Oregon. I didn’t at all feel like running 8 long miles barefoot on the rough and icy streets, not only because of cold, but also because the city was doing roadwork, filling the streets with the infamous tiny pebbles I have deemed “pain pyramids”. The stone triangular spikes must have been formed in the very bowels of barefoot-runner hell.
After watching some Youtube videos, sitting in front of the heater, and pretending to myself that I was not procrastinating, I finally convinced myself to put on my running clothes and hit the streets. As soon as I shut the door, the skies did not open and the sun did not peak through revealing a lovely rainbow, instead fierce black clouds swarmed above, an arctic blast surged over me, and the first biting darts of sleet struck my tender feet.
For the first few miles, my hands trembled and I wondered what the hell I was doing outside, then I noticed that according to RunKeepr, my last mile was a two seconds faster than the previous mile. Even though I was miserable, the encouragement from runkeepr boosted my pace–at the very least running faster would get me out from cold dark clouds faster. Around mile 6, the nerves on my feet were telling me they needed more skin. I ignored the pain. At mile 7.5 I stepped on a slice of glass or a metal scrap or a rusty nail. But I didn’t stop because I had only half of a mile left! I would treat the cut later.
When I finished my run, I wasn’t all that shocked to see blood prints behind me. I could see my life juices swishing with the rain and swirling peacefully into the gutter. When I examined my foot, I didn’t discover a shard of glass or even a gash on my foot. Instead I gazed into the tiny hole I had run into it.
Luckily, I was able to bandage the wound and run comfortably with sandals. I even comfortably ran 10 miles three days after the injury. Unfortunately, the bandage must have altered my gait because I developed a pain deep in my ankle. It felt like a sprain, but worse. My foot swelled so I decided to take it easy until it healed.
As soon as I got back up to 11 miles for my long run, I caught a wicked chest cold. Cough cough cough, no phlegm just a hacking dry cough and not even dreams of sleep for about three days. I rarely get ill, but this virus sneaked past my defenses. Maybe that’s because I weakened them by running barefoot through a storm.
I am well again. I am once again on my feet. If I were to pray to Saint Sebastian for anything, I think I would ask him to protect me FROM MYSELF.
May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you live with ease.
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: