Posted by: pontdo | September 11, 2012

A Humbling Welcome to the UltraMarathon Club!

The inaugural Robinson Flat 50k, held Saturday, September 8th, was also my inaugural attempt at a true “Ultra” distance race….and to say that I underestimated the challenge that the event would provide is a HUGE understatement!  The combination of my “newbie” status, along with the race being a first time event with little information on the course, made the likelihood pretty high that I was in for a ton of unexpected challenges on the day.  As it turned out, I NEVER could have imagined the difficulties I would have to overcome during 32 miles on some of the most beautiful, and challenging, trails I have ever run!

What a Great Inaugural Course!

Leading up to race day, I had slowly realized that my long list of injuries and ailments (knee arthritis, hamstring tear and tendonosis, plantar fasciitis, achilles tendonitis) had dramatically improved…especially surprising given that I had just put in my first 200-mile month in as long as I can remember!  In fact, as Carrie Hyatt (my studly training partner!) and I made our way to the start line, I couldn’t help but get excited about how good my legs actually felt!  This (irrational?) exuberance would probably end up being the key cause of the events that would later make this race-day the most challenging I have ever faced!

Testing my race-day gear for the Robinson-Flat 50k

When the race started, I couldn’t help but run with a smile on my face…I had waited a LONG time for this experience and I was so happy to be doing this!  “The greatest pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do.”   The fact that my second mile had a 7-handle on the split and this would be the longest distance I had ever raced, should have clued me in to EASE UP ROOKIE!  But I felt so good and the course was so beautiful that I kept on rollin!  When Carrie later commented that “maybe I did go out a little aggressively”, I said that I just felt so good, to which she answered with the now obvious reply, “of course you did…we just started running!”. DUH!

Beautiful View From the First Aid Station at Red Star!

As I rolled through the first Aid Station at Mile 8, I was feeling really good and only had two 50k runners in front of me.  This is where the course jumped onto the WS100 trail and we would spend the rest of our day navigating this beautiful portion of the legendary ultra course.  This next stretch heading to the halfway point at Duncan Canyon offered mostly technical single-track with some fantastic scenery!  I was fortunate enough to team up with a super-friendly (like everyone out here!) couple who were racing the 35k as training for the Berlin Marathon (really?!?).  They were strong climbers, so I found myself just working to stay with them…I of course now realize that this tactic early in the race was another ROOKIE MISTAKE!

As I bombed down the technical, rocky descent into the halfway point aid-station at Duncan I felt my first twinges of muscle cramps in my calves and groin…little did I know this would be a prelude to some serious problems ahead!  Working the aid station was Western States and ultra-running legend, Tim Tweitmeyer…so who better to ask for quick advice on my newly cramping body. :)  So, with Tim’s advice, I doubled-up on my electrolyte intake (Edurolytes), reloaded my bottles, ate everything salty I could grab and got on my way.  The one thing Tim couldn’t tell me to do was go back to the first 15 miles and re-run them EASIER!

WS100 single-track to Duncan Canyon

The next 7 miles back to the Robinson Flat start/finish area were without a doubt the longest miles of my life (that is, until later when I would crawl through the final 7 miles of the race!)…“Only by going too far, can you find out how far you can possibly go”.  This stretch was all climbing and descending and the twinges I felt earlier were now full blown, locked muscle, brutally painful, CRAMPS FROM HELL!  Several times heading back to Robinson Flat my legs would completely stop with cramps locking from my groin to my inner-knee, turning my adductor muscles into piano wire!  Every time I tried to stretch it out in one leg, my other leg would cramp…I truly didn’t know what to do–I couldn’t even walk!  The only thing I could think to do was drink everything I had and pop every electrolyte that I had and then wait for it to kick in.  Slowly I was able to walk, then eventually run with baby-steps…every time I tried to lift my knees too much or get a bit more aggressive on a descent or climb the cramps would come back and shut me down immediately!  Everything else felt great, but I couldn’t run–SO FRUSTRATING!

As I struggled through 4 miles (in 1:14!) of battling with my horribly cramping legs, my morale was rock-bottom and I had pretty much resigned myself to the fact that I would have to stop at the 35k finish and call it a day.  As I SLOWLY rolled into the start/finish aid station, which also served as the 35k finish, I heard someone ask if I was continuing on…before I could even decide what my answer was, Connor Curley, who was working the aid station, said “of course he is!”.  I just smiled and knew that after years of waiting for this moment, I couldn’t go out like that!  “We must all suffer one of two things: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret”.  I then realized that I was 10 miles of cramping, walking, and shuffling away from my first ever ultra-marathon finish…Time to Dig Deep!

Robinson Flat 50k – Garmin Profile. (Notice the mile splits of the 1st half vs. the 2nd half!)

As I finally rolled into the finish, a long 7 hours and 19 minutes after I sped out of the start, I still managed a smile and it felt so good to know my struggles on this day were over!  A great guy from the old Rocklin Running & Racing days, Theo Wirth, immediately handed me a cold beer, Carrie gave me a congratulatory hug and “welcome to the club” cheers came from everyone around.  It was truly amazing how such lows could turn to such highs in such a relatively short period of time!  On the drive home, Carrie reminded me of the most important fact of the day…as brutally tough as my problems were on the day, none of my issues were structural! Every challenge I encountered can be corrected.  That’s why I truly think I am BACK FOR GOOD and can’t wait for my next 50k attempt in 4 weeks–at RIO DEL LAGO!

“For those who said “you can do it”, thanks for the support. For those who said “No way”, thanks for the motivation!”

Carrie smiling her way to an awesome victory!

Beyond ready to call it a day! DONE! But definitely the BEST feeling of the day!

Posted by: pontdo | August 25, 2012

New Balance Minimus 1010 Shoe Review

After training off and on with the New Balance Minimus line of shoes for the last several months, I was very excited to hear about an update that was promoted as having more cushioning, more protection, an improved outsole, and still the desired 4mm drop and light weight of previous Minimus models. Recently, New Balance rolled out the highly anticipated MT-1010 (update to the MT-110) and at first glance it appears to have met or exceeded all of those claims.

Below are some of the noticeable features of the New Balance Minimus 1010…

  • REVlite Midsole: I really felt and appreciated the added cushioning versus the MT-110 and other Minimus Trail models. You are definitely a bit higher (5mm higher than the 110) with a 23mm-19mm heel to forefoot, but I never felt at all unstable.
  • Vibram Outsole: The bi-directional lugs provided great traction on technical trails, both climbing and descending, and the ride was still relatively quiet and smooth on the roads.
  • Rock Stop: This was a very noticeable difference from most Minimus models, as I never felt any of the sharp rocks that I intentionally sought out. Unlike what I have experienced with some other trail shoes with rock plates, the forefoot is not overly stiff and still felt very flexible throughout the foot-strike.
  • Synthetic/Mesh Upper: The welded seam upper with quick-dry fabric felt just as breathable as the MT-110, but didn’t allow in anywhere near as much debris and dried out quickly after hitting some water spots.  I did run with socks, but the shoes could comfortably put in plenty of sockless miles.

NL-1: Natural Last Heel Width - Standard Instep Height - Lower Toe Box Depth - Shallower Forefoot Width - Wider

***

In conclusion, I was very impressed with the New Balance Minimus 1010.  I enjoyed the MT10, which was my first Minimus shoe, but had issues with sharp rocks and the fit of the upper. I’ve also put plenty of miles in the MT-110, but felt it almost forced over-pronation and I never loved the fit of the upper or the traction of the outsole.  The MT-1010 addresses all of those issues and then some!  It provides a stable, low to the ground, ride, with very adequate cushioning and protection, while maintaining the Minimus objective of a natural and minimal feel on the trails or roads.

I think the 1010 is a perfect shoe for someone looking to transition to a “minimalist” style trail shoe or for the experienced minimalist trail runner looking to add a bit more cushion and comfort, without sacrificing performance.  I feel the MT-1010 is definitely the BEST release to-date in the New Balance Minimus lineup.

As with all minimalist running shoes, I would advise a slow and deliberate transition due to having your heel lower than in traditional running shoes.

If you are in the Roseville/Sacramento area, check out the New Balance Roseville Store, mention this review and receive a 10% discount on the MT-1010 or on any of the shoes in the New Balance Minimus line-up.

Enjoy the Miles!

Posted by: pontdo | August 10, 2012

Inaugural Graeagle Trail Run!

After years of being injured, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to post some pics and details about an incredibly special run that I completed with Carrie Hyatt up in Graeagle last weekend. After all, you never know when a wonderful experience may never happen again…live every day to it”s fullest and take nothing for granted! Hoka Hey!

Heaven on Earth!

With an amazing lightening storm and bit of rain the night before, the pine-needle coated single-track trail was absolutely perfect for a Sunday morning sunrise run! If you love the outdoors and have never ventured west on Hwy 89 from Truckee to Graeagle, I can’t recommend it enough…incredible beauty!

Beautiful sunrise on Graeagle single-track

The scenery was never-ending! Definitely didn’t help our pace as we stopped to take pics more than once! :)

Never ending views

Carrie made herself right at home at the Mills Peak Lookout Tower :).  The US Forestry worker manning the tower was awesome!

Mills Peak Lookout

Overall, I had such a wonderful time out on those beautiful trails.  My legs weren’t quite where they needed to be, but the company and the scenery helped me gut it out and get in a solid 21.5 miles.  Thanks so much Carrie!

One of many photo breaks on the Graeagle Trails

“A race is just a race, but a friend who paces you is a friend for life.”

On Saturday, July 21st I had the tremendous honor of pacing Carrie Hyatt during the Tahoe Rim Trail 100 mile Ultramarathon. My job would be to run with, and support, Carrie from mile 50 to mile 80 of what is considered to be one of the toughest 100 milers around. Some estimate TRT to be ~2 hours tougher than Western States because of its notoriously difficult course – 22k ft of elevation gain – all of it above 6500ft.

“A Glimpse of Heaven, a Taste of Hell” – TRT motto

Coincidentally, race-day for the 100-miler marked my 100th DAY back running! Less than 5 years prior, I had been told after having knee surgery, that my arthritis in both knees was so severe that I should hang up the running shoes and find a new sport. As much as I enjoyed cycling and bike racing for the last few years, there is NOTHING like escaping into the wilderness on a trail run…NOTHING! Since I had barely 3 months of training under my belt, Carrie’s request of me to pace her for 30 miles at an event like TRT was an incredible honor, but also incredibly terrifying! But I knew the importance of this role and how incredible the experience would be…there was NO WAY I was going say anything other than HELL YES I’LL PACE YOU!!

My training leading up to Tahoe had been going pretty well, but trying to quickly ramp up my mileage to prepare for my 30 mile responsibility had started to take its toll. My hamstring (that I injured over 1 year ago!) was still giving me problems and my achilles tendons were causing me to shuffle like an old man for the first 10-15 minutes of each morning!  I truly believe that CRYOTHERAPY and my wife’s awesome leg massages were the only things keeping me from completely falling apart!  So, I was able to get several weeks of 40+ miles and a couple of long runs of ~20 miles each (along with 12 Cryo visits!).  I was as ready as I could be with 99 days of training in the bank!

Race day had arrived and good lord it was HOT at home in Rocklin! As I loaded up my Jeep to head to Tahoe the temps were heading towards 105!  This meant the temps at Spooner Lake, where the race started and finished would be in the low-80′s…at 6500 to 8500 feet, this would feel smokin’ hot!  The upside was it didn’t take me long to warmup once I got to Spooner Lake! :) Then in to Spooner came Carrie…looking super strong and way up in the standings.  Her crew got her all ready to roll…I couldn’t wait to get at it!

Carrie’s Crew was amazing…What great support!

A quick photo before heading out on our adventure!

Once Carrie and I rolled out of the Spooner Lake station, we began the gradual climb that lasted almost the entire 6 miles to the Hobart station. I had heard from Carrie’s husband, Jon, that she had not been taking too many electrolytes (S-Caps) during the first 50 miles. With the temps where they had been and the FAST pace Carrie had started the race with, this was potentially a cause for concern. However, when I commented during the transition at Spooner that I would “make sure I told Carrie to start taking her S-Caps”, everyone there who knows Carrie just laughed and said “good luck”! :) Let’s just say Carrie is a “strong-willed” individual and doesn’t always like being told what to do…but it’s that toughness that would carry her through some real adversity later in the evening!

Cruising past beautiful Marlette Lake!

As we flew through the Hobart station and made our way the next 5 rolling miles to the Tunnel Creek station, Carrie was putting on a tough face, but I could tell she was starting to have some issues. With a number of unexpected “pit stops” and food sounding less and less appealing to her, I was starting to get worried that a problem was brewing.  We made pretty quick work of the Tunnel Creek station and made our way on to the infamous Red House Loop! I had read just about every race report I could get my hands on and most of them had nothing good to say about this 6.5 mile portion of the course…especially the 2nd time through…which for most people was at night.  However, since Carrie had gotten off to such a great start, we hit one of my big goals for her and that was to hit the loop with at least some daylight left…Here we go!

Carrie commented that she would “let me make up my own mind about Red House”, since I had never run the famed loop before.  Initially, Red House was going ok, actually very scenic…except for the fact that they had a DAMN CLOWN THEME at the aid station…I hate clowns! Who likes clowns?!?  This clown thing was, of course, in addition to the bigger issue, and that was that Carrie’s condition was heading south in a hurry! The problems really hit home at Mile 66…where those stomach problems came on full bore!  Poor Carrie hit the side of the trail 3 or 4 times over the next couple of miles and vomited out of her system pretty much everything she had consumed over the last several hours.  She bravely tried to eat some mashed potatoes made for her at the Red House aid station, but all I remember is her complaining about “who puts pepper in mashed potatoes at an ultra?!?”. By this time it was pitch black and we were struggling to just keep moving the last mile or so back up the aid station at Tunnel Creek.  Carrie was getting pretty demoralized and obviously feeling horrible…I just kept telling her “we were not going to make any decisions about her race here” and “let’s just get you up to that station and we’ll start the rebuilding process”.  Honestly, there was never a doubt in my mind that she would shake this off and we would celebrate her second 100 mile run the next morning!  That being said, I still HATED the feeling of having to stand there and watch Carrie go through that and I couldn’t do a thing to help! BTW…I decided I HATE the Red House Loop! But Carrie definitely left her mark(s) on the stretch of the course!

Where Carrie’s “rebuilding” would take place!

Finally, we made it back up the relentless climb to the Tunnel Creek station and the rebuilding would begin!  Long story short…Dr. Andy Pastornak, anti-nausea med Zofran, and a 90 min nap…changed everything! My favorite memory from this period (other than eventually getting the heck out of there!) was when I was sitting in a chair next to Carrie as she slept and I asked the Doc when he was going to wake her up…he promptly said “I’m not waking her up…that’s your job!”  So, as soon as I saw her eyes flutter I started talking to her…she sat up and said she felt a bit better.  I said, let’s get your gear back on and walk around..but as soon as Carrie stood up, she said she was ready to get back at it. Like I said, I never doubted that this would happen, but man, was I happy to hear that!!!  So, after some broth and liquids for Carrie and a 5-hour energy (my first ever!) for me…we were headed out towards Diamond Peak (Mile 80)!

The last 13 miles–other than feeling like 20 miles!–were thankfully pretty uneventful. That 5-hour energy was AWESOME! Carrie slowly got her stomach back and returned to a consistent approach of power-walking the climbs and running the flats/downhills.  A quick note on Carrie’s “power-walking”…she has mastered that skill…I had to run to keep up! At this point it’s ~2AM and I can feel things getting back on track…my achilles were KILLING me, but I was again running with a smile on my face:).  We had a welcome third-wheel in Ryan, who joined us for the last ~6 miles into Diamond Peak.  He was with us for a bit back in the medical tent…some painful foot problems…and was very happy to have us drag him to mile 80! My achilles were on fire at this point, but I was trying to remain as positive as possible since Carrie was really looking good again.  Then we finally saw the condos that signaled the last mile into Diamond Peak…what a welcome sight!

Carrie and Pacer #2, Chris, heading into the night and the final 20 miles!

As we rolled into the lodge at Diamond Peak I pumped my fists knowing that my under-trained body had held up and Carrie’s “rebuilding” was a success! As Carrie’s awesome crew (Jon and Sharell) took great care of her and got her ready for her final 20 miles, I gave her next pacer, Chris, a quick rundown of what she had been through.  I knew she was in great hands and couldn’t wait to see her cross that finish line the next morning!

Official Race Stats…100M: (143 starters, 87 finishers) 60.8% finisher rate.

Carrie Hyatt…Finished at 12:13PM (31:13:49) 10th female and 57th overall.

What an incredible experience.  I have always found Carrie’s toughness and discipline to be tremendously impressive, but after seeing what she was able to overcome during our hours together, I was inspired like I have never been before. An experience I will NEVER forget!

“Show me someone who has done something worthwhile, and I’ll show you someone who has overcome adversity”

A proud finisher!

Chris, Carrie and me…Time to celebrate!

When you’re roaming the trail with the speed of a snail
And defeat looks you straight in the eye
And you’re needing to sit, your whole being says quit
You’re certain it’s your time to die.
But the code of the trail is “move forward don’t fail”
Though your stomach and ego are scarred.
All the puking and pain is just part of the game
In the long run it’s quitting that’s hard!

Posted by: pontdo | September 19, 2011

Gran Fondo with Greg LeMond!

GRAN FONDO

To recap this weekend’s Echelon Gran Fondo, in a word—AMAZING!  Saturday’s weather in Palo Alto was PERFECT as nearly 600 of us lined up to take part in this challenging event on an epically beautiful course.  I was fortunate enough to be the top fundraiser for the event (raising over $7500 for LIVESTRONG!) and was given the honor of rolling out at the front of the pack! 

TIME TRIAL

After putting in 70 miles from Palo Alto out to Hwy 1 and suffering through almost 7000 feet of climbing, it was time for the TUNITAS GRADE TIME TRIAL…over 8 miles long and climbing 2000 feet!  Groups of ~20 riders were sent off in 2:00 intervals from the tiny town of Pescadero.  Amazingly, as they counted down my wave’s starting time, I was realizing how good I felt.  I had been training for this 8 mile event for quite some time and the moment of truth was here!  In the first couple of miles I quickly dropped all riders in my group and was catching riders in the group 2:00 ahead of me.  By the halfway point up the climb, we were now fully shaded by 100’s of towering redwoods and I was starting to reel in riders that had started 4:00 and 6:00 ahead of me…I was feeling great!  I was lucky to have a strong rider ahead in the distance that I could focus on and this chase really helped me dig deep during the middle stages of the route.  As the signs counted down…3k to go…2k to go…1k to go, I was nearing my max heart-rate and my calves were cramping pretty badly.  I drank what I had left and fortunately the road settled down to a manageable ~4% grade for the last 1k and I got out of the saddle to give it all I had for the final couple of minutes.

WAITING GAME

After crossing the line in just over 37 minutes (my goal was ~38:00), I was pretty exhausted, but felt very proud of the effort that I had just put in.  It was now time to  bomb our final descent and then spin the final few miles back to Palo Alto and await the results.  The primary reason I was so focused on winning this event was that the grand prize was a top-of-the-line Power Trainer from LeMond Fitness, which meant that the day’s Guest of Honor, 3x Tour deFrance winner and one of my all-time heroes, GREG LEMOND, would be presenting the award.  Greg LeMond’s epic performance in winning the 1989 Tour was the reason I bought my first road bike 22 years ago!  As I stood with my family awaiting the results, they announced that I had won and I could hardly contain my excitement…I did it!  I got to spend the rest of the afternoon chatting with Greg LeMond, getting autographs and pictures with my all-time cycling hero…just an incredible experience!  This was truly one of the most memorable days of my life!

Posted by: pontdo | June 1, 2011

Dog Days are Over!

Well, here we are in June already (although you would never know it by the 60 degree weather outside!).  The Master’s Track & Field World Championships are less than 40 days away…this is where things get exciting!  Training has been going pretty well, but not without the need for SEVERAL ice baths and massage sessions over the last month or so.  The workouts have gotten harder and harder over the last few weeks and I am constantly reminded that it is not necessarily ABILITY that is impacted with age, it’s RECOVERY that is!  Just keeping my eye on the prize and enjoying the journey.  Like I always tell my kiddos…”anything worth having in life will likely be difficult to attain”.

PA-Open Track & Field Championships

Just last weekend, I participated in the USATF Pacific Association Track & Field Championships down at the College of San Mateo.  This would be my first track meet in 4 years and would mean competing mostly against “kids” half my age!  A fun road trip with fellow Granite Oaks track Coach Charlie Brenneman, some beautiful weather, and an awesome venue in San Mateo made for a very enjoyable return to the track!  The results were short of spectacular with 56.4 for the 400 and 2:15 for the 800…both far from my July goals, but good starting points for the summer.  I made some correctable mistakes and learned some things for the races still to come.  I definitely felt the inexperience, with nervousness, tentative racing, and serious cramps on the drive home!!

I NEED to keep reminding myself that I was told multiple times that my running days were behind me and that my dreams of racing on the track, earning All-American status, or toeing the line at “Worlds” were unfortunately unattainable.  This probably has a lot to do with my training song selection of late–Florence & The Machine’s “Dog Days Are Over”–it says it all for me!

Enjoy the tune and I’ll be back soon with training/racing updates as “World’s” draw near…

Florence and the Machine “DOG DAYS ARE OVER” Music Video from LEGS MEDIA on Vimeo.

Posted by: pontdo | April 13, 2011

Back to the track…

Well, it’s been 9 months to the day since my last post, so it’s more than time to get back on it!  Today also marks 88 DAYS until the Master’s Track & Field World Championships come to Sacto! (Master’s World Champs) This is the first time in 2 decades that the Master’s Track Championships have been held in North America!!  This is the absolute athletic highlight of my entire year…in fact, I haven’t been this excited about a competition since school!  I just officially registered for the 200m, 400m, 800m, and applied for the 4×100 and 4×400 relays.  The open 400 meters is my absolute focus, with a trip to the finals (top 8 overall) being my ultimate goal.  Qualifying for the 400m final would also mean that I would rank top-4 in the US for 400 runners aged 40+, which would earn me a coveted invite to join the Team USA 4×400 relay.  Now it’s time to get to work!!!

In preparation for the big 11-day meet this July 7-17, I am still spending 3 days a week on the bike, but have decided to take a break from bike racing in order to focus on the track.  Unfortunately, my early-season track training has been limited as I have been dealing with a really nagging injury for the last 6 weeks — iliopsoas tendonitis.  However, I think I have had a huge breakthrough in the last two weeks with some fantastic deep-tissue massage from a former Rocklin Running & Racing regular, Jeff Johnston!!  I really feel like he has helped me work through an injury that has been plaguing me for years–if anyone reading this ever needs quality massage/treatment DEFINITELY drop Jeff a line (jeffery@up4running.com).  He’s VERY affordable and he’ll come out to your place too!!

Finally, the other exciting activity that I have been involved in recently is my first experience in school-level coaching.  This Spring I am working at Granite Oaks Middle School as assistant track coach primarily working with sprinters and relays.  What a blast!  I’ll have more info on my next post about what “coaching” 100 12 and 13 year old sprinters has been like…

Posted by: pontdo | July 14, 2010

Going Barefoot! One Month In The Books!

Cutting the heels off my favorite trainers...can't heel-strike if you don't have heels!

One month of barefoot/minimalist/Chi/etc running in the books!  And I’m just now starting to feel like a “Runner” again!  It has only been just over a month, but it has felt like a lot longer than that!  Plenty of highs and lows ALREADY!  Really it has been just a series of inevitable growing pains that should be completely expected when totally changing the way something has been done for most of my life.  That being said…I still get high as a kite and want to sign up for an epic race after a “good” run and think my world is crashing down around me after a painful or “bad” run.  So, I guess I should apologize to my wife, Becky, for such a roller-coaster month…I’m pretty sure things will smooth out emotionally once I get some more miles under my belt:).

After my first couple of weeks of mostly running truly barefoot (see my nasty toes in my earlier post), I realized while that was a great way to quickly correct my heel-striking tendencies that caused all of my problems, it was also a painful and potentially injury-riddled way to improve my form.  So after a little more homework, I found what I think will be a safer, less painful way to achieve the same end goal (hopefully!).  First, I’ll spend most of my miles in protective “barefoot-like” footwear that keeps me off my heels…so, I ordered a new pair of Vibram Bikila’s and I cut the big bulky problem causing heels off my favorite lightweight running shoes.  Second, I end every run with a barefoot 5-10 minutes to make sure my “new” form is still progressing.  The shoes feel great without the heels…It really makes a mid-foot strike feel so much more natural!  And doing most of my running in REAL shoes (albeit lightweight trainers with no heels or my new Vibram’s) has done wonders for my scarred, blistered feet (Becky seems to really appreciate that side-effect!).  Finally (and most importantly), transition to this new style of running SLOWLY and GRADUALLY…this is a huge transition and my body will take plenty of time to adapt.

With the above strategy, my running is progressing nicely with my first hour run in the books just this last weekend.  However, like I mentioned earlier, I have had some bumps in the road.  My achilles tendons and ankles have had the expected growing pains from my new foot strike.  Every twinge in my problematic knees terrifies me…A week long bout with knee tendonitis scared the heck out of me, but seems to have been another temporary problem.  So, I’m pretty comfortably getting in 4 runs a week (with barefoot strides after each) and am being extra careful about soreness and pain.  This EARLY success has me already peeking at a few local trail events on the race calendar for later this year:).  I haven’t sent in my race reg just yet, but we’ll see!

See you on the trails…

MY HERO…
What are the reasons for wanting to run in minimalist shoes? Almost all shoes (even many racing flats) have an unnecessary amount of rise from the forefoot to the rearfoot. By training in a shoe with this sort of heel lift, the Achilles tendon is constantly shortened and underworked with each step. The raised heel also limits the range of motion in the ankle upon footstrike and promotes a heelstrike instead of a more midfoot or forefoot initial footplant. One’s footplant while running barefoot is much different than while running with shoes. If one were to run barefoot across a stretch of asphalt, I guarantee that he or she wouldn’t run with a heelstrike for very long! Thus, a big motivating factor—for me—in wearing minimalist shoes is to force my body to adopt a running gait (shorter, quicker strides that land closer to the body’s center of mass) that will allow my feet to take advantage of the most natural cushioning mechanism that was built into our anatomy—the resilience of the Achilles tendon, calf muscles, and ankle joint. Running with a fore-to-midfoot strike in minimalist shoes almost completely disallows overstriding; increases one’s agility on uneven terrain (a definite plus in trail running); strengthens all of the often overlooked supportive muscles, tendons and ligaments of the feet and lower legs; and, in the end, hopefully cultivates a more propulsive, strong, less injury-prone stride. Decent slow-motion shots of the kind of footplant and running style I’m talking about can be seen in this video clip. If one looks closely, he or she can see that the initial contact with the ground is with my outer forefoot; I then roll in, touch down with my heel, and push off (I’m not just running exclusively “on my toes”).

Additionally, I am a big proponent of simplifying my life (and thus, my running), and believe that the human body was meant to run, and that simple biological evolution couldn’t have been so wrong, so why not let the foot and lower leg do what it was designed to do (I’ve read many peer-reviewed articles that have concluded that the human body evolved to run) and not inhibit it with some big clunky shoe? Of course, basically from birth, the majority of the human population is corrupted by being placed in very “supportive” almost cast-like shoes and our feet and lower legs become very weak. I myself used to run in so-called stability shoes with hard plastic, custom orthotics, but over the past three years I’ve tried–and succeeded in–leaving those albatrosses behind. Because so many folks have grown up wearing shoes and the medical industry constantly pushes more and more restrictive orthotics and shoes that simply weaken the foot further, most people can’t imagine running hundreds and thousands of miles over rocky trails in such flimsy flats as I do. It’s something that needs to be worked up to gradually, but I believe that as long as the running surface is natural (no concrete, asphalt, etc.) the human foot is well-designed to handle any running stress we’re willing to impart on it (provided you give it enough adaptive time).

Posted by: pontdo | June 24, 2010

Going Barefoot! First 2 weeks…

Over my recent vacation I read the highly recommended book, BORN TO RUN.  The book was mainly about the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico and their incredible ability to run endless distances over brutal terrain.  However, the section of the book that really struck home and had me rereading every page was the chapter that discussed the rapidly growing trend of BAREFOOT RUNNING.  The merits of barefoot running are beyond things like “feeling” the earth and going back to our “roots”.   The benefit that hit home with me was the resulting change in running form that going barefoot brings…staying off your heels and running only on the balls of your feet and the measurable reduction in the related impact.  It made perfect sense…stay off your heels, run “lighter” with less impact and the rest of your body (especially your knees) will benefit.  In fact, the book references numerous runners afflicted with osteoarthritis in their knees (like me) who were able to successfully continue running (even Ultra-Marathons) because of the transformation related to running barefoot.  After finishing this chapter, I immediately threw down the book, put on ONLY a pair of shorts and ran straight for the park.  Even though I hadn’t run in a year since my orthopedic surgeon said my running days were over, I now had renewed hope and had to give it a go IMMEDIATELY!

While circling the park on the grass for just over 20 minutes, I could immediately feel the difference.  Without the big cushy running shoe underfoot just asking me to slam my heels into the ground, I naturally ran on the balls of my feet and struck the ground a lot lighter.  One of the challenges the book warned of was the inherent weakness of feet that have been stuck in highly cushioned, restrictive shoes for years.  Sure enough, my arches, achilles tendons, and calves were quickly fatigued and could barely get me home…not to mention the blood blisters that almost immediately covered the bottom of each big toe – OUCH!  I figured these problems would be a small price to pay in the short-term if this transformation would allow to me to resume the one athletic activity that I have always LOVED!  A year ago I transitioned to bike racing after my surgeon warned me of the real possibility of having debilitating knee problems as early as my 50′s if I continued running.  I have enjoyed cycling (sometimes a lot), but never LOVED it like I did running for over 20 years. I plan to keep riding, but can’t deny that I daydream about spending hours running on “my” old trails someday soon.

I’m 2 weeks into my return to running and other than some painful blisters, things are progressing nicely.  My fingers (& toes) are crossed for now…I’ll keep you posted on my progress!

-BAREFOOT DON :)

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