Thursday, 16 August 2012

Racing time!

Well this week marked another first in my barefoot adventure when on Tuesday I took part in my first race in my Luna Sandals!

I'd been talking up the Luna's all week and this 4.5 mile hilly road race was the perfect time to show people what they were like.

This was a very small club race but I still got many comments on why with minutes to go to the off, I still had my "chill out" footwear on and when I was going to change :)

Even at the start line I was asked "you're not really running in those are you?" like I was some kind of sadist...  Well soon the race was on and it was uphill which suited the flip flops well as I was forced to take small short strides and soon I was mid-pack "best of the rest" maybe?

I ran past the first check point and the marshals were looking at each other in confusion as I'm sure some people still thought I was trying to be funny with my footwear choice. But the fun really started as I reached the top of the first climb....

Now I was sprinting fast downhill on tarmac road. The thick vibram soles of the luna's were fine and I was very comfortable and I started to think barefoot and road running really works (it has been said before by better people than me) BUT it was the noise that brought the smile to my face.

Slap, Slap, Slap! as I thew myself down the hill. It felt fine but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't get any quieter. Maybe it was because I wasn't running right? but it made the marshals smile as they could hear me before seeing me. I later went on to say it was a safety feature!

Three laps later and as I was getting "looser" and more relaxed I did think I was a little lighter on my feet but I still drew comments at every bend from the spectators which was actually fun. Speed wise, I don't think they aaffected me at all. The only thing I did notice was that the rear straps kept creeping down slightly but I could move my foot and they would re-position. I think they need a little rework on the straps as I've been wearing them socially for too long.

Well I crossed the finish line in a respectable time and was asked again by the same club runner for the 3rd time "did I really run in those?"

Yes I did..... and I loved it! I'm going to give road runs a try in the VFF's and see how I get on?


The next day was a very short but steep Fell race. I thought I'd try the new Merrell's as I thought the route was stony paths but how wrong was I!

Oh while I remember......, I'd decided that I'd try and re-sell the original yellow Merrell's off ebay and they were soon snapped up from a fellow club runner so people are willing to give it a go I guess?

Well we set off and soon the path was under a mini lake of deep mud! I knew when most of the start line had fell shoes on that I might be in trouble but too late. I decided speed and aggression was needed so every time I hit a patch of the brown stuff, I went hard, straight and fast. Actually this worked quite well and despite blowing up on the race as it was something like 800ft in 1.5m I had a good time.

I've now not worn road shoes for weeks, maybe months... I little while longer and I should be fully converted.

Next please?

Monday, 13 August 2012

Life’s a beach!

Well it’s the Monday morning back at work after a week of holiday…  Boo! (well It was never going to be great was it!)

Well I have to say following 2 weeks “working” on the Olympics I needed a holiday!

I have to admit running was going on the back burner as I’d spent too much time away from the family but I did pack my Merrell Trail Gloves and Luna’s.

I wore the Luna’s “socially” for most of the break but got up early on the Wednesday for a sneaky 8 mile beach run. I’d always had one eye on a beach run and what better to wear on sand than flip flops! (so I thought). The sunrise was amazing but as soon as I started I noticed my calves were far too tight. I’ve noticed I’ve started being slack on warm ups and cool downs and I really need to start stretching better.

The last run pre vacation was a 22 mile off-road run which was a recce for the Essex Way (82m) run which I planned to run at some point. I wore my Magnum / Hi-Tec V-lite’s as the Merrell’s still felt a little tight but for some reason they wrecked my legs and I was still sore.

Anyway back to the beach! Apart from the pain from the last run, I hadn’t accounted for the movement of the flip flops on the sand and the gradient so the toes were taking a hammering from trying to stay stable. Also even though stones in the luna’s isn’t normally a big deal, there’s stones and there’s a British beach!!!! Every other step was like running on razor blades. 8 slow miles later and I knew I’d been working hard.

Well I took it easy for the rest of the week until the weekend. I decided that I really did need to sort out a barefoot shoe that I was 100% comfortable with so I rang Field and Trek in Chelmsford which is having the longest closing down sale in history and reserved a pair of Merrell trail Gloves in 9.5 Ash colour. My others are fine but these gave me the confidence I needed to increase the miles.

I wore them around the house for the rest of the day then decided to christen them by running 5 miles to Baddow the next day. I decided that “out of the box” they should be ok and even though this went against all the rules of new footwear I threw caution to the wind. I ran slowly to Baddow then ran a 5 mile road race which included a cheeky 50m ford. I then did 4 miles of off-road training and decided to call it a day.

Due to the distance and the heat I carried my small 12 ltr Inov-8 race back pack. This contained 2 litres of energy drink, some wet weather gear and a change of clothes in case we ended at a pub J. Well after I got home I noticed that I had a few more “scars” than I normally had… The new Merrel’s performed great but I had managed to blister one of my op scar slightly (not bad and could of happened with any shoe). Also later I noticed my lower back was slightly sore? I asked my wife to have a look and I had a row of tiny blisters I guess from the pack? I’d worn this pack loads of times over distance and with the same shirt but I think today it decided to raise slightly resulting in the “war wounds”. Nothing too bad though but I’ve decided to try and look for some “all in one” short / vests for use when carrying packs in the future.

Well that’s it for now! I did have another conversation today with some people from our running club on the subject of barefoot running (many who had read “Born to Run”). Lots of people expressing a desire to try it!

Speak soon…

Friday, 3 August 2012

The Next Step?

I’ve now started to “live” in my Luna sandals ever since I got them… Around town, on the beach (well stones), doing the shopping, even in the shower! I’ve worn my flip flops as much as possible. I’m even now at the stage where wearing “normal” trainers feels strange! I feel that my running style has also changed slightly and the best feedback I guess I’ve had so far (apart from not getting injured touch wood) was comment from a friend whilst out for a run who said my running style was really smooth and looked like I was “gliding”…  I’ve noticed that I don’t seem to pick my feet up as much now so I guess that’s what he was on about?

I’d been thinking about what to wear to continue the barefoot trend on the trails in the wet and mud where the flip flops won’t cut it and saw a pair of Merrell Trail Gloves on ebay. As I’ve said, every footwear manufacturer is jumping on the bandwagon which is ironic considering for years they have been pushing arch support and motion control forever! But the Merrell’s had caught my eye.

I’d already been wearing Walsh PB’s for a few years now and these British made fell running shoes have seen me through the small number of fell races I’ve taken part in but also the miles of poor condition muddy off-road races I’d used them for (I even took them to Afghanistan!)  I was happy with hardcore off-road shoes with the Walsh’s especially as they are a basic design trainer but I still needed something for wet trails. This is where the Trail gloves came in. I’d tried these on in Field and Trek so I knew my rough size and on ebay saw a pair only worn once for only a few pounds so thought it was worth the risk.

One of the best things that steered me towards these was the fact they could be worn without socks (for that barefoot feeling) and could also be machine washed. When I got them I gave them a quick wash let them dry then started my usual “race prep routine” of wearing them to work and socially for a week. They fitted well but noticed that my middle toe on the right foot slightly touched the end of the shoe. This wasn’t really an issue but when I took them out in anger for the first time I sub-consciously could feel it.  The next time out I ran with them unlaced (don’t ask why) and they actually felt fine and earlier this week I ran 10k trail race with them laced loose and again they were fine. In hindsight I guess size 9.5 would be better but there you go.

Well that’s it I’m actually up to date on the blog! The only thing to add is the number of people that are interested in barefoot running is on the increase. As soon as you start talking to anyone about any form of running the conversation soon switches to injury. This is when I drop the barefoot topic in to the mix.

Go on, you know you want to!

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

The Album

Here's some photos of what I've been talking about to date....