Friday, 30 November 2012

Pain Related Learning

Well that's what the Army says when you literally need to beat some sense into someone...

You'll be glad to know that in today's modern army that doesn't physically happen but in this case it relates to my constant capability to underestimate and pay for it.

This time as previously indicated it was my decision last Sunday to break in my new Xero's with a long off road run when I'd not run in sandals for sometime due to the weather change instead of the sensible option of a simple short run.

Well I came off the run bruised and sore as expected but nearly a week later I've missed two training runs so far this week and my long run tomorrow is in trouble as I'm way off full fitness.

The sandals decision though wasn't the only poor choice last Sunday as I ran a series of short runs most of the day. The day started badly when I didn't have my usual porridge breakfast and opted for bacon sarnies. Never change anything in your routine unless you test it first and then only a little at a time.

Well because I ran a number of short runs, I'd again managed to under estimate the required fuel and after 18 miles I'd only had one gel and limited fluids. From 6am till 4pm all I'd taken on was a small sarnie, a gel and limited water and I'd taken part in a Cross Country and 10k Road races as well as running to and from events and racking up nearly marathon distance!

Monday morning my calfs were on fire probably also due to my lack of effort with warm down and stretching. I felt stupid waddling my way around the office like I'd messed myself. As well as this, my big toe that I had the op on earlier had started to ache a tad.

I took a couple of days off running then strangely the toe started to really hurt to the point where I could hardly walk on it something that hasn't happened since the actual surgery. That was Wednesday and its Friday now and I'm still limping slightly on it.

So do I risk it tomorrow? The course I'd planned is a fig 8 of Chlemsford so there will chances to opt out mid run. My heart says go for it but my head says take it easy.

Anyway i'll let you know how I get on

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Running with minimal fuss?

Well it's Sunday evening and I've got my feet up after a weekend of outdoor fun.

Saturday was spent with the family first visiting a Running Expo in Surrey then we checked out Chessington Zoo while in the area :)

I'd heard about the Expo via Runners World and it sounded interesting with the usual large amount of stands featuring mainly manufacturers and running stores so I knew there would be some nice goodies on display but what really caught my eye was this was the first event where there was a noticeable Barefoot Running representation.

There was a small independent store called Barefoot Britain ( and a stand run by a couple that specialise in training Barefoot Runners.
These coaches were also holding a talk on minimal running so I was sold.

The Barefoot Britain stand was run by a nice lady called Tracy Davenport. She seemed to know loads about the minimal running scene and had a stock of some interesting products that included some slip on plastic shoes for general “chilling” but also sold basic DIY style running sandal kits. They were branded as Xero but I later found out they were actually rebranded Invisible Shoe sandals from the U.S. the main competitor of Luna.

I really liked the foot beds as they had a nice tread pattern and seemed to be made from a harder material than the neoprene Luna’s? I actually fancied trying some basic sandals to see how I could get on, I love my Luna’s but because they are the 10mm thick soles I feel I'm missing a little of the true barefoot ride if that makes sense. Well my lovely wife Kelly could tell how much I liked them so offered to buy them for me (love you!). Tracy had already “traced” my feet and she picked out some appropriate sized soles, some laces and even a hair pin and hole punch.... I’ll get back to those.

Later we attended the talk on barefoot running. It went into detail on how the techniques differ but also the physical benefits. My whole family actually attended it and they said they found it interesting. The presenters have written a book on the subject so I might try and track it down. My 8yr old daughter especially liked the talk. She’s getting into running and has already run a large number of trail races and is now into Cross Country. I loved the presentation and was the first to ask a question at the end asking "Does it hurt running barefoot?" The presenters actually took time to answer her question in detail and I was impressed with her and the time taken by the guy’s. Below is a pic of Katie at the talk.

Later that evening I built my sandals up from the kit. They were actually pretty easy to put together and I looked forward to testing them the next day. The hair pin I found was for threading the laces through the footbeds lol.

In the morning, I planned to get in some miles by running to a Cross Country in Little Baddow and back then later taking part in the Chelmsford 10k road race. This should cover the minimum of 20 miles long run for my ultra training.

Well what to wear? I wanted to try the new sandals but wasn't sure if I would run to the XC in them or actually race in them later in my 10k road race?

I took the decision to wear them to run to the XC in Baddow. This meant 6 miles of road and trail with some water and mud thrown in.

So what were the Xero’s actually like? Well to start with they felt nice! They actually felt like I wasn’t wearing shoes (hence the Invisible tag?) But what about running? They were hard to start but this was probably due to the fact I’d shelved the Luna’s for the winter and I hadn't run in sandals for a few weeks and it was taking a little time to adjust.

After a few 100m, I was getting used to them though. I'd managed somehow to get the laces set-up bang on and they actually felt better than the top of the range Luna laces. After a couple of miles I felt at home with the new footwear and even did my first mini review live!

See the video review by clicking the link below:

I got to the race start and enjoyed the statements from the rest of the members of my running club on how mad I was to run in those and loved the shocked look from the other clubs runners. Generally I was really pleased on how the Xero's performed. I'd almost say I liked them better than the Luna’s for now but we’ll see.

Did my feet hurt? Well yes to be honest. Were my wet muddy toes cold? Well yes again to that too but nothing serious and when running the friction warms you up. I'd covered probably the toughest terrain these could handle first time out and I felt ok.

Next up was the actual Cross Country event. I changed into my Walsh's for the XC and took it pretty easy on the course as I knew I was running home post event.

I finished 97th (no idea how good or bad that was), I had a quick cup of tea and a custard cream and changed back into the Xero's to run home.

The run back felt emotional. I was a lot slower and the feet were starting to get sore.

Well I kept going and even though I felt tired it wasn't that bad, well until I thought I'd trod on what a initially thought was a really sharp stone but it turned out to be a long thorn that had gone through the sole and into my foot.

I pulled the torn out and kept plodding on till I was home. I'd by now run about 16 miles and I just had enough time to change into a clean club vest before heading off to the 10k road race.

In hindsight, I should have started with something shorter and a little less technical and I knew I’d got blisters in my heels but that was nothing to do with the sandals and I remember a statement from the barefoot presentation yesterday “if it hurts, you’re doing it wrong and need to change something”.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Get lost!

Well the ultra-training has kicked off this weekend.

After looking at various ultra-training plans and guides I've decided that as I've taken part in regular marathons and races up to around 30 miles that training for 40-50 shouldn't be that different (notice I never said EASY!)

I've also covered 100km in the Trailwalker event previously which I ran/walked but more walked and also covered long distances in the Army even carrying weight and in boots, so I knew that it would probably be painful, mental and slow!

Due to the above I decided to base training around the marathon training format of short runs in the week with long runs at the weekend. For the last marathon though I'd not done any long runs and still did it ok but the key for me is getting the balance right and not over committing. Be realistic and only plan what is achievable.

So the result is at weekends I'm going to try and fit in a 20m plus off-road run and another shorter run back-to-back. This I've heard is the key to ultra-running as you can't do 50m training runs (well I can't), so instead you get the body used to operating when it's already tired.

Anyway, this weekend just gone....
Well I'd decided that I'd run the Chelmsford Centenary Circle which runs around the outside of the city approx.. 20 miles. I'd run most parts of this many times but there were a few legs that I'd never covered and a few places where I'd end up a little confused.

The run started well, I'd opted to carry some kit in my Inov-8 backpack but not use a bladder as I now preferred the hand bottle (strange as I used to hate anything in my hands). I packed a back-up 500ml bottle in the pack just in case. I used this run to test a few minor things with nutrition though.

The main change was the drink. Normally I'd use an Army issue drinks powered which contains lots of carbs and sugar. I used to suffer from minor cramping though and decided to try something different so this time used water with Nuun hydration tablets (Tri-berry flavour). The tablets have no calories so only provide the minerals needed when running and all the carbs come via gels. (think I might try the next run with no gels and just these to see the real effect).

I'd already tested them in the office in my normal drinking water so I knew I could stomach them but I packed some tissues just in case! Also emptied my energy gels into a single Salomon bottle which is a little like a collapsible "babies bottle". At my last race I fell whilst trying to take on some gel smashing my knee and I though this could reduce time opening packs. (Notice I didn't use the hand carrier).

2 miles into the run and I was feeling a few tweaks with my feet etc. (wearing trail gloves) but then something went click in my back and my back instantly locked like a trapped nerve. I'd woke a week again with the same pain but it had gone but now it had returned instantly?

I couldn't turn my head very well and even breathing was a little painful. I seriously thought I'd have to walk home but jogged a little and noticed that running caused no more extra pain than walking or standing still so thought I'd carry on for a while as I could be in pain at home feeling guilty or feel in pain at home after the run. Was it uncomfortable? YES but it actually took the focus off some other niggles so I carried on.

One of these niggles was some minor discomfort in my right foot in the main tendon down the front. I’d first had this from breaking in the new Walsh’s but now it seemed to return when wearing the Merrill’s also my toe joint started to hurt on the same foot where I’d had my op. These were not that bad and I could live with them but I need to remember that it’s the minor things that can develop into something serious when probably running longer 30-40m as its hard to put up with things for that amount of time.

Well the drink went down well with me only drinking 500ml which I think is too little for a 20m run and would normally drink a little more. I noticed later I’d get headaches even though I’d drank lots when home. The gel bottle also worked ok but I’m still not sure as the last bit was difficult to get out of the bottle so will keep looking at that.

Last point on the topic of Merrill grip in mud. I’ve spoken about this a number of times and again in heavy mud the shoes slipped BUT I tried to run through these sections as flat footed as possible using all the grip they had to offer and this did make a difference so will push on.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Missing In Action!

Well its been a while......

With the autumn and winter upon us the barefoot option is getting a little narrower.

The footwear of choice the Luna Flip Flops were almost packed away for the winter as the last time I wore them they didn't stand up to the wet mud of UK trails in oct/nov!

I'm gutted as with Injini socks the flip flops are ok on warmth but they really don't do wet and mud. Luna have now released all there flip flops with Monkey Grip Technology which is like a non slip footbed. I actually even sent them an email saying do they have plans for a UK winter trail version but to date, nothing heard.

I've instead switched to the Trailgloves which I love BUT even they don't give that grip in the worst that British weather can throw at us. I will stick with these now but have been also using my old Walsh's which I'd promised myself I'd throw out as I'd brought a replacement pair of PB Ultra Extreme's from Pete Bland Sports at this years Fell Relay British championship.

I have no issue using the Walsh footwear in a barefoot blog as these are really basic designs and have little support or drop between heel and front. As said previously though these are very much aimed at serious fell races so I'm still in the market for something barefoot with a little more grip maybe lol

Well for now ill stick to the Merrell's. I've just entered Country to Capital 45m Ultra in January and also the South Downs Way 50m in April so better keep up the long runs!