Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Running form analysis - August 2014

I have shot another video to analyze my current running gait. Not that I would be unhappy with my current form (injury free for the past two years) but I am pretty sure there are always ways to improve and work on efficiency and speed.

I have received quite a feedback from Barefoot and Minimalist Runners group on Facebook.
It is a lot of useful information so I am listing it bellow:

I'll take a stab...One of the first things I notice is a significant crossover gait pattern, placing increased workload to the lateral/posterior hip (thinking glute medius). You either don't have enough strength or stability to control this force, and is shown with a contralateral (opposite) side hip drop and/or lateral shift. This is more pronounced when loading on the right leg. You seem to compensate for this also with a more pronounced arm swing on the left to help with balance through the right loading phase. A lot of other thoughts that are also very speculative as their could be several reasons structurally, stability or strength that could contribute. Interested in hearing others' thoughts.

Crossover gait.

In Michael Sandler's book he talks about upper body form a lot. I feel like that topic is often overlooked yet extremely important. I have focused, myself, on upper body form a lot with great results. One thing that jumps out to me is the way you are crossing your arms in front of your body. Try to make your arms move only forward and backward, parallel to the direction you are running. This will counter balance your legs and eliminate unnecessary work to stabilize the twisting motion you are creating. Also one arm is being held out more than the other. Make sure to check in with your form throughout the run. Keep your shoulders rolled back, core engaged, and hands up high.

I've definitely noticed that people's arms and hands mimic their legs and feet. I even spread my fingers every so often to help spread my toes.

I say - it's too much stress in the running form. Upper body totally fixed; it could be seen that impact goes from down to head. Perhaps it's because "on the camera" run, however there is crossover pattern (as already said) twisting torso and makes the run not nice and flowing. Just try first to flow-in on soft layers and then go to pawed road. But in a overall, a great effort - just relax a bit.

Thanks everyone for such a great feedback I can definitely see the crossover gait as well. The thing is I have been running barefoot for four years (around 750 miles a year), last two years with no issues, no injuries, no discomforts. Did 2 trail half marathons, three road half marathons with no problems, easy recovery. All of that skin to ground. I never experienced any IT band pains or strains. So I am bit puzzled over here. Perhaps my camera setup for this shot (using really extreme zoom lens) distorts the footage and some of what looks like crossing over is just an optical illusion. I have another video (2 months older) where I used moving camera and normal lens, should be showing my gait more clearly. Please check it out as well.

Daniel - looks good to me as usual! I hold my arms the same way. As a fellow barefoot runner and going on 5 years, I say don't change things to much. Your resume of barefoot running is similar to mine, and you are injury free!

Thanks Adam Gentile, that is encouraging to hear. I may stick to the old "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" then !

I have seen your videos over at BRS, and to me your form has always been consistent.

Thanks for posting this Daniel. It is always interesting seeing other people run. A few points come to mine. You're not hurting and you've run a lot. You must be doing something right. I love the Gait Guys, but I'm not sure it is a crossover gait. Your "cross-over" looks like it's happening primarily below the knee. The Gait Guys show it as a hip level dropping issue. Your upper body is not doing any sway. If I was to pick on one thing, I'd be curious about your right foot overpronating. I think you then have a hard time supinating your foot before push off. Tough to tell from video, but a guess is that you might be excessively externally rotating your hip on push off. This would cause your landing foot to come across the midline. Also curious what your posture looks like not running.

Many here mention The Gait Guys. Back in 2011 they actually took one of my running videos for their analysis. Back then they concluded "that the right foot is spun out", "the left arm seems to cross the body more than the right" and that I got ""most likely some pelvic asymmetry". They also mentioned a minor crossover. For anyone interested here is the article

Brad Kuchinka thank you for the feedback. As for my right foot overpronating, I am aware of that. The Gait Guys say my 'foot progression angle' is increased. "The increased right foot progression angle will often accelerate pronation and increase its degree." I am far from being perfect But trying to improve what I can. Thanks again !

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Timberline Mt Run

Oh, the lazy summer time.
Have not done a decent race in some time and feel like it is time to hit a road or trail again together with a nice bunch of similarly excited runners.
Oregon race calendar is a good place to start looking for such a venue.
And here we go:

"Featured in the August 2014 issue of Runner's World Magazine. This is one of the highest foot races in Oregon, covering 6.97 miles of trail, mountain slope, and just a bit of road. The entire course is above 5000 feet in altitude, with 3900 feet of total elevation change."

Timberline Trail Running Club

That immediately gets my attention.
The location, the elevation, the terrain.
It starts and ends at Timberline Lodge high on the slopes of Mount Hood. I know that area very well from my hiking/climbing adventures but I have never tried to run there.
It's got some nice features:
* Rocky and dusty trails low in the woods
* Barren volcanic landscape higher up
* Snow crossings even higher up
* Less oxygen
* Great views

And doing it barefoot will definitely stir things up a bit.

Sunday morning, August 10.
Waking up at 7 AM.
Juicing my morning fruits, packing stuff, getting excited, then nervous, then excited again.

The race starts at 10 but it is going to take me an hour and half to drive from Portland to Timberline Lodge. 
9:30 AM
Sun is scorching hot, it is already 72 F. There is about 100 runners at the start, most of them look pretty competitive. I definitely catch a couple of curious glances at my bare feet but no one comments (yet).
"He does not look like he forgot his shoes at home so he probably knows what he is doing" I get the impression from the serious looks around.
My goal is just to finish the run with no goals time wise so I am in no hurry and start slowly at the end of the pack.

Downhill comes fist. On just a mile and half we drop some 800 feet. Some old paved forest road, then gravel but mostly dry dusty rocky trail in the middle of a ski slope. I manage just fine, maintaining speed with others, so far so good.

Most of the race course looks like this

Next three miles ascending back to 6000 feet. A lot of switchbacks. Forested area provides much needed shadows to cool down. The pack of runners is still quite condensed, one following the other in one long zig-zaggy line.
I slowly start passing people uphill and first comments start pouring from behind:

"There is no ouch out there, the trail is really nice." I politely throw back hoping to sound convincing.

"Wow!" - a silent one

"Don't your feet hurt?" - another one at a water station.
"If they were hurting I would not be running here, believe me" I smile back.

Vegetation stops, we are above timberline running on a barren old broken lava landscape. Noon is coming, burning sun depleting my water reserves. Really glad I left my t-shirt in car, occasional light breeze cools me down.

The real scramble comes up. We gain the last 1000 feet over only 1 mile. Towards the top it is more of a power walking than running. Runners are much more scattered now, some stopping and resting. Snow patches start appearing. At one point we are passing under a ski lift with some skiers riding it up (Mount Hood has year round skiing). A bunch of snowboarders starts pointing at me:
"That guy is doing it barefoot !"
I show them two thumb up with a smile and get loud shouts of encouragement in reward.

Mile 5.5, the highest point at 6,960 feet. Running on old packed snow patches brings the much needed refreshment and cooling for the feet.

Meeting skiers along the race

Running over snow

Now I am flying down. Everyone in front of me seems to be running slow crashing heels hard into the ground. Just painful to watch. I quickly pass everyone in sight and just keep enjoying the crazy downhill ride alone.

Finally downhill

Running downhill on coarse glacial  till

Finishing in 1 hour 23 minutes.

After the race more people come over to chat a little.

"Man, what is you strategy for running downhill? You were just flying out there! My knees always hurt on steep downhills" one the guys I passed on the downhill section.

We chat a little, all I can tell him is running barefoot really makes the difference. All I do is just relax the whole body, bend knees a lot and let the gravity pull me down the mountain while maintaining really high cadence.

Another girl tells me she is a strong believer in running barefoot but her arches are too weak to actually do that.

No one calls me crazy, hardcore, bad-ass etc. (as I have been often called at other races)
In general people here today are much more open to the idea running without shoes actually makes sense.

I take it as a good sign, times are changing.

Feet after the race - no blisters, no cuts, no bruises

Race stats:

Distance  6.97 miles
Time  01:23
Total elevation change  3,900 feet
Max elevation  6,982 feet
Placed   5th in my AG

Elevation profile

Map of the course

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Running form on technical trails

Human feet have amazing ability to adapt to almost any trail surface.

Many people worry that the rocks, twigs, and roots on a trail make barefoot trail running impossible.
Not true.
First, you use your eyes and avoid what worries you. Second, your feet aren't rigid and can grab and grip and mold around many "obstacles."

Running barefoot allows the body to receive essential information about the ground from the tens of thousands of sense receptors on the sole of the foot. This feedback is necessary to move correctly.

Watch in HD.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Running form video analysis

In August 2011 I shot a video to analyze my running form to get some feedback from the community.
Got some comments back and suggestions what to improve.

The issue mentioned the most was carrying my arms quite low and having a reasonable amount of lateral movement in them.

The Gait Guys even took it for their analysis here
They concluded "the right foot is spun out", "the left arm seems to cross the body more than the right"  and that I got "most likely some pelvic asymmetry" .

For the past two years I have been trying to improve and work on these issues and finally got to shooting an update.

To my disappointment I am not seeing much of a difference between those two videos shot two years apart. Although I can tell I run more relaxed now it looks like my left arm is still swinging more than the right one and as for the right foot...hmm...hard to say because of the camera angle.
I guess nobody is perfect and the pelvic asymmetry is a tougher animal to beat than I thought. Will see what happens after another two years.

Note about the video locations:
I shot both of these videos intentionally on a chip seal forest road because the rougher the surface the less you can get away with imperfections in your form. In both cases I also ran 6 miles on the road prior the shooting the video just to "settle in the form".

Running form August 2011

Running form August 2013

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Wildwood Trail Half Marathon

My second half marathon this year.

Let's run it wild style !!

"Zebra Man" is the theme I pick up for this race. I am wearing my new running shorts from Runningfunky, put the obligatory feet and face paint on and finish decorating with some bear claw bracelets and anklets. The transformation looks complete.

Feet paint

Zebra Man ready to race

About 250 runners queuing for the start on a narrow gravel forest path.
"I hope you have your tweezers and antiseptic with you" someone from the packet pickup line jokes about my bare feet.
I have no worries. Trail is mostly hard packed soil/dirt with some gravely sections and it has not seen a shard of glass in ages.

We climb 600 feet up in one mile right after the start. I feel slow, breathing heavily. Turnaround, running the same hill down. I know this is my time to show off. I am flying down, passing a nice bunch of runners now.
Next 6 miles slowly climbing 925 feet up. Water station and turning back. Knowing I am half way done and it is only downhill all the way to the finish line bring a surge of new energy.

I start paying less attention to the ground and it immediately fires back. Running really fast downhill, the path is nice and clear. Then all of a sudden one root decides to peek out of the ground right in front of me. Big thump on my forefoot. Flying down forward, landing on my hands and knees. I am really shocked (and happy at the same time) the foot is OK. I do not even notice the little scratch under the knee until 5 minutes later someone in the finish line points down to my leg with big Ooooo..OUCH!!.

Taking shortcut on the way back


Got many comments along the way. All positive and encouraging, people are really friendly.
One girl wants to see bottoms of my feet after the race.
Some people are still having hard time imagining running barefoot doesn't hurt.

Quite the opposite actually. It is natural.

Feet after the race all dusty
Race stats:

Distance  13.1 miles
Time  01:56
Total elevation change  1,850 feet
Placed   6th in my AG (65 out of 250 overall)

Race course

Race course

Elevation profile

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Heart Breaker Half Marathon

Third time's the charm.

And here it comes again, Heart Breaker half marathon, one of my favorite annual challengers.
2 years ago I had to refuse the challenge at the very last moment because of a stress fracture from doing "Too Much Too Soon".
Year later I felt strong and confident and went for it full speed. Had a blast (full story here Heart Breaker 2012 ).

The race course was an easy one, mostly smooth paved downtown roads.
This year they have moved it out to the countryside and made it more challenging for a skin-to-ground runner. One more reason to go.

Saturday 8 AM, race day
Painting feet is one of my pre-race rituals. Today's paint job = rainbow shoes. At least my idea of it :-)

Morning is cold, overcast, with light drizzle and quite wet. I was expecting sun, that's what the weatherman was claiming last night. But I take it, it is winter time after all and running barefoot in 2 feet of snow somewhere else on Earth would be probably less fun.

Big crowd of runners. Nobody around is barefoot and I don't see any Five Fingers among half marathon people. Only Jen and David running 5k and 10k are in Soft Star moccasins. My choice of footwear attracts attention. In a good way, people are curious.

I know most of the course is going to be chip and seal roads with some sections of gravel. Five Fingers strapped to my arms give me a good feeling of some added security.
I finish my slushy Chia seeds cocktail and feel ready to roll.

Mile 1
Smooth pavement. Nice beginning, relaxed. I am still cold, feet are cold too, a couple of toes go numb. I know this is going to pass soon.

Mile 2 to 12
Chip and seal roads, some up and down hills. Under a nice old railroad trestle.

Feet warm up. Hands not so much. I shouldn't have left the gloves in car. Damn.
I find out pretty soon going downhill on this rough surface is the most challenging part. At mile 3 there is a short half mile section of a crushed gravel road. I go very light, knees bent, feet relaxed to allow just mold over the gravel. I have to run this twice (there are two loops here for the half marathon) so I am also scouting the terrain for the best second approach.

People spread up more now. After passing a couple of lonesome warriors I catch up with an interesting couple. The guy is all naked running only in a short leather loin cloth (and shoes). 
"What a nice pair of shoes you have!" he starts with a big grin.
We stay together for about a mile chatting so the time passes faster.

My forearms are frozen hard now. I can hardly bend my wrists. I should have known, that's a beginner's mistake. Looking at the bright side, Chia does its magic and keeps me hydrated so I do not have to stop at any water stations and can just keep running like Forest. 

Soon after mile 10 I start feeling the effect of wet roads. Pads are getting softer, pavement harder. Running on painted center lines is not helping much. Somehow the paint on a chip&seal is rough too.

"Do not run through pain" I hear my less competitive half.
But there is no pain, just soreness and it is only 3 more miles to the finish. I guess Five Fingers can stay where they are and just enjoy the rest of the ride.

The last mile's nice smooth pavement gives me a welcome relief. When sprinting to the finish line and looking at the timer with 01:53 I feel really good. 3 minutes faster then a year ago and all that barefoot on a much more challenging surface ! 

There is no visible damage on the bottoms of my feet and besides the pads soreness and frozen hands I feel very good. Another fun race with a bit of challenge, couldn't be better. Loving it.

Soles right after the race

Race stats:

Distance  13.1 miles
Time  1:53:59
Pace   8:42
Placed   23 / 39 in my AG
            157 / 474 overall

Course map

Aerial photo

Course profile

The Aftermath

Balls of the feet get really sore in the next two hours after the race. To the point I can only walk in a pair of thick cushy socks for the rest of the day. I soak feet in hot Epsom salt bath to reduce the inflammation. The next day is much better. Two days after the race some deep tissue blisters show up but the recovery is really fast. I can run barefoot again in four days. Considering the run conditions I take it as a success. Human body has amazing adaptation capabilities.

Pads one day after the race

Pads two days after the race