God is good, God is …

Creation of the Sun and Moon by Michelangelo, ...
Creation of the Sun and Moon by Michelangelo, face detail of God. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On a twelve mile run deep into the woods of the Upper Salmon River in Welches Oregon, I realized that I grew up Christian, learning early in my life to fear and to love God, the same God who often took the shape of my “father” who snapped his black leather belt as warning when I misbehaved and who sometimes whipped me with it, blistering my thighs and back with red welts whenever I continued to defy him, the same God who also embodied my “dad” who bought me a brand new red and blue huffy bike with spider-mag wheels just because I told him I wanted one, meaning I can never extinguish belief in the divine, I can only interpret it. 

On the drive home, while flipping through the jangle of tunes and talk on the radio, I heard a warm and intriguing voice say,

For in him we live, and move, and have our being; Acts 17:28.

I fell under the spell of that verse immediately, with its pleasant assurance that all things are divine. The flow of the scripture spun my mind to running–for in him we move. I run, not to become faster so I can win races, not to develop fitness so I can stay healthy, and not to burn calories so I can eat  pizza and guzzle Oregon’s finest beers; instead, I run as an act of worship, each springing knee bent over the wild terrain honors the cosmos, moving me forward, bringing me closer and also distancing me from my ultimate destination. I am not a Christian, but I do feel God surging in my blood, heaving in my lungs, screaming at me to stop and also to push harder whenever I’m bouncing over the landscape of this vast planet. I grew up Christian, learning early in my life to fear and to love God, who sometimes takes the form of my “dad” and “father,” and who, at other times, takes the shape of the man casting my shadow.

Honesty in 3 Letters

I was disappointed and frustrated that my race times were so pathetically slow this year. I thought I trained well. But obviously I didn’t. So I asked myself what did I do last year that I didn’t do this year?

The answer was clear. Last year, I used my GPS for every run. It kept me honest. Every time I hit the streets or trials I knew exactly how far and how fast I was running. This year it was all guesswork. For instance, I added a “10 mile” trail run to my schedule. I estimated the mileage by the Upper Salmon River  signs and by feel. When I wore my GPS watch  on the run last week, I discovered that the trail markers were correct, but my estimates were wrong. My “10 mile trail run” was only 8.97 miles. The miles felt  longer because the trail has some steep, technical spots that slowed my pace considerably. Because I used this “10 mile run” as the basis for other mileage (I looped the route to get in my 15 and 20 milers) all of my training mileage was off. I was also running the route much slower than I should have.

This year I learned that honesty can be spelled with just three letters: GPS. For now, I’m still using my ancient Garmin Forerunner to track my mileage. But here some top of the line models that are in my wish list. These watches are perfect some of the longer ultras that I’m planning next year:

 

Eliminate Top of Foot Pain Once & For All

It feels like a drunken construction worker with a bright yellow hard-hat dropped a huge red brick on the top of your foot. It’s a dull, nagging pressure wedged between your big toe and the center of your foot. Worst of all, its cause is a mystery. You haven’t upped your mileage or even done any speed work. The phantom ache is a strange Halloween ghost haunting the spaces between your metatarsals and phalanges.

Has phantom top of foot pain ever struck you after a barefoot run?

I had my first scuffle with Top of Foot Pain (TOFP) this summer. At first, I thought it was from increasing my mileage or from doing wind sprints, but as it turns out it was from something else.

What’s the real cause of TOFP?

The number one cause of Top Of Foot Pain is TERRAIN! Most unshod runners ignore terrain; instead they focus on mileage or kilometers. But terrain plays a HUGE ROLE in injury. 4.8 barefoot kilometers on a steep, rocky mountain trail is more likely to ignite TOFP or whip-up pain in your Achilles than an 8 kilometer run on flat, smooth asphalt.

When to See a Doctor?

If the Pain increases when you walk or run. If you have sharp, shooting pains. If it’s fractured, running on it will only increase the size of the fracture, which means longer recovery.

How to Treat TOFP?

  • Rest
  • Ice
  • Compression
  • Elevation

Terrific Terrain Tips:

  • Avoid Stepping on small stones–especially on flat surfaces; they will pop pain into your brain and damage your foot. Stepping on small stones is the main cause of TOFP. Tiny pebbles push the foot apart and crack bone. It’s a good idea to wear sandals or minimalist trail shoes such as Merril Foot Gloves when running on uneven, rocky terrain.
  • Stretch your feet AFTER you run.
  • Read my post —> The Secret to Superhuman Feet Finally Revealed.

 

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How to Start Running in Free Shoes

Nike Air Max LTD 2
Image via Wikipedia

Candy wants to get fit fast. She asks herself : “How do I start running without getting hurt?”
Her brain’s response: “Go shoe shopping!”

At the shoe store, Candy sees and army of brands: asics, new balance, Nike, saucany, not to mention these funny looking “barefoot shoes”.

She decides to go home to do some research. Wow! Amazon sells  them online. Then the question hits: “What size am I again?”. Last time she took up running she was 9.5 in Nike, but the time before that she was 10 in Asics. She saw one barefoot shoe site that had videos about how to make a template of her foot for to a custom pair.  But it was too much trouble.

A pair of ASICS running shoes, model GEL-Kinsei
Image via Wikipedia

Unfortunately for most of the Candys out there, high priced or custom fit running shoe won’t do the running for them. In fact, Candy’s foot might not fit  into the factory made, mass produced pair of running shoes. Sports shoes are a joke; they’re full of gimmicks such as asics “gel” even the toe glove for five fingers or the special cushioning of saucony. Candy might be better off trail running  in a plain pair of tennis shoes like the low top converse all stars than the high tech brands she saw online or at the running store. Almost any pair of walking shoes that fit her feet would serve well for running.

Candy needs to know that it’s not the shoes; it’s the runner. Athletic shoes and sport shoes can’t trail run for her. The running store wants her to think they will. They want her to believe that the shoes will magically fix all her bad bio-mechanics that they’ll make her faster, leaner, and lighter. But they won’t. The best shoes in life are free.

Don’t get me wrong, shoes are good tools for improving form. They can compensate for bad bio mechanics and keep Candy running by alleviating the strain on her foot, but they don’t solve her core issues with running.

So, I give to Candy a pair of free shoes and a few free resources  about how to start running without shoes:

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Running with Ghosts

The Ghost of Maria Marten, who was murdered in...
Image via Wikipedia

A few months ago I wrote about one of my many forest ghost encounters.

But I found an equally frightening one when I was clearing the boxes of old books from my closet.  While reaching for a box, an old journal I used to keep when I lived in Santa Cruz, CA tumbled down from the shelf. It popped open onto an entry I tried to forget. The penciling was faint on brittle pages, but the memory of the encounter was vivid and sharp.

“It happened around dusk along the narrow trails at Fall Creek.  My run took a little longer than I anticipated. Started too late. It was getting dark fast.  I remember hearing the wisps of air flowing in and out of my lungs, the drips of water gliding over the stones, the chirps of birds flitting from the limb to limb, and the creepy low groans of the redwoods bending in the wind. I think that’s how they speak to each other.

Up to that point, it was a great autumn run. The temperature was perfect, there weren’t any bugs or hikers on the trail. I felt really good, happy to be alive. But then something wasn’t right.  A bolt of fear shot through my chest.  It drained me; I felt empty, alone, and afraid. An image took over my minds eye: a latino man in overalls was running away. He was bleeding from a board to head or something; he was caked in pale, grey dust. I felt his panic. He was frantic. Trying to escape.  It was strange. I felt like my mind was being controlled, the images were being inserted into it. I had no choice but to look. When I closed my eyes the vision was brighter, when I kept them open, I could see normally, but the images were still there, simultaneous. I could see them and the trail, but they were separate.

Suddenly, I heard someone, someone REAL, running toward me on the trial.  I watched in terror as the bushes onto the trail spread open and the man who was in mind burst from them. He charged toward me, but didn’t seem to recognize of perceive me;  I jumped off of the trail to let him pass. As he ran, he kept turning his head to see behind himself. Soon, I knew why. Two men also in overalls and covered in the same pale dust were chasing him. They were thick, burly, men with strong jaws and crooked noses. One had a heavy bludgeon of some sort, the other a hammer. They too didn’t seem to notice me as ran past me. My heart was blasting, but I decided to run in their direction anyway. As soon as made it around the corner, I saw the two larger men standing over the latino. His head was was a mess of gore and bone. The two men just stood over him satisfied, there bloodies tools swinging gently back and forth. I said, “Hey! Hey!” But they remained where they were. I came closer, “Hey!, Hey!” I yelled. As they turned, piece by piece each one slowly merged into the scenery. The dark stains in their overalls became the weird shadows of leaves, mangled head resolved into the red moss and mud, the filthy hair became pine needles.

I sprinted the rest of the way to my car. Just as I got to my car the light was gone; the forest was black. It was good to be off the trail; those weren’t the only spirits lurking is the darkness. ;0)

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Ghosts of Santa Cruz

The Haunted Coast.

They say the California Central Coast is full of ghosts, that with the mists, clouds, and fog the sea brings apparitions. You never feel quite alone near the sea, especially when the hazy light fades.

I’ve felt the touch of spirits, good and bad. The good, on one of my trial runs at UCSC. It was mid day but a type of fog the natives call “pogonip” covered the sun. It filled the forest with cool drizzle. The damp charged the scent of eucalyptus and bay leaf. As I emerged from the tree covered path and entered the meadow, a burst of sun beams broke through the fog; they shined through the hole in the clouds above me. It was as if a window to heaven had opened up. I was stunned; I stopped running and just looked up in amazement at the mysterious portal. A rush of warm air blasted down. It smelled of fresh roses, strawberries, and mint. With the scent came an overcoming thrill of joy. I laughed. When I came to my senses, the portal had closed. I inhaled deeply, then continued my run. From that point onward, I had the distinct sense that someone watching over me. It was a little discomforting at first because it was so pronounced and lasted for weeks. I felt self-conscious taking showers, going to restroom, and doing other personal things. Either I got used to feeling or it went away.

A few days later, a daydreaming mother of three side swiped my Corolla. After the impact, I stepped from my car to find out if the woman who hit me was OK. She and her children were fine. I returned to my vehicle to retrieve my insurance information. Just before reaching into my glove compartment, I felt a presence tugging on my shoulder, urging me to step away from the car. I looked at the road, but it was clear. Nevertheless, the pressure to get off of the road overcame me. I left the insurance information in the car and walked to the curb. As soon as I got to the curb a huge SUV zoomed around the corner and slammed into my car, completely wrecking it.

The other supernatural encounter I had at UCSC was not so positive. It was downright frightening. And I hope it never happens again. It was about a week before the angel came to me. I was hiking across the street from family student housing. It’s an “off limits” hidden trail. The hike started out pleasant enough. I crossed a dilapidated bridge, then spied an inviting side trail. It was narrow had clovers and wild strawberries on the sides. Soon the vegetation gave way to looming redwoods, which darkened the path considerably. As I followed the trail, a growing sense of dread emerged. It got to point where I was in a panic, almost overcome with terror. I felt as I would lose my mind if stepped further, as if some malicious presence would take control. My hair raised, my heart raced. An alarm was triggered in me; it told me told me run, to get the hell out of there ASAP! But when I tried to run, I couldn’t. I was frozen in place. I tried to yell, but my voice didn’t work. Then I heard a branch snap near a ring of huge, ominous Redwoods. I know no one else was on that trial. Whatever had snapped the twig wasn’t human or animal. I knew I could not be alone with it. But I couldn’t move and I knew it was approaching. I forced myself to imagine a peregrine falcon (my totem animal) flying overhead. The grip of terror broke. I bolted off the trail and ran home.

A few days later, I decided to run an experiment, I took someone else with me to the same area, determined not to venture as far this time. I did not tell her what had happened to me the last time I went there. Sure enough, the person I was with had the same alarm signals go off. She turned to me and said, “This place is evil. We need to go.”

These are the places of power, some good, some evil. Their energy cannot be denied. Tread barefoot, it’s easier tell which is which.

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