Thursday, December 30, 2010

The ineffable joy of NW winter trail running

The recipe:
Mix a nice hilly trail in the woods with 2 weeks of rain, cover with well aged fall leaves. Make sure the mud is splashy and slippery. Sprinkle with just a bit of snow. Cool down to 35 F and run on it as fast as you can. Enjoy. Tastes like heaven.

First half a mile on forest road

Leaving gravel, starting on the trail

White powder

Soft and squishy

Slippery when wet

This section of the trail is always giving me a couple of arch bruises, working on more relaxation...

Happy feet

Happy me Smile

Post Scriptum
For 6 months I thought asphalt was the best. Wrong. After my first run on this trail some two weeks ago I got immediately addicted to trail running. I am a total BF trail runner convert now.

Monday, November 29, 2010

My first "winter" race BF

Well, not the real winter you hardcore guys from Midwest with single digit temperatures run in but the local variation we are blessed with here in the Northwest.

I sign up for 10k Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving Day. The race is on a paved trail in a park, the temperature is 32F and there are some icy patches mixed with a little snow on the trail.

I have gathered all the information I could find about running BF in winter on the Barefoot Runners Society forum before so I dress warmly, put vasoline on top of my feet and stay in my flip-flops until the starter gun. I am a little worried about running on the ice but the organizers make a bypass at the very last moment to avoid the largest icy section so we can run on grass instead.

There are a lot of runners so the first two minutes everybody just walks and I start worrying about my cold feet but when I finally manage to get to my tempo my feet warm up and I feel great and pretty confident about the rest of the run. I pass a lot of people and this is the first time I actually notice and wonder about how most of the shod runners loudly slap their feet with low cadence huffing and puffing.

I finish easily in 50 minutes with a big smile at the finish line hearing a guy with a megaphone announcing: "We got a barefoot runner here, it must really hurt to run barefoot especially in this cold weather". I wish he knows how wrong he is.

My feet are just fine, not a single blister, I only feel a bit of soreness on my front pads afterwards but that is gone by evening that day.

More races like this ! 

Sunday, November 28, 2010

I did it ! - My first trail run

I have been running BF exclusively on asphalt/concrete for the last 6 months and I really like it but after reading so much about the beauty of the BFR trails I finally decided to give a trail run a shot.

I pick an old forest road, mostly muddy in the current rainy weather witch stretches of sharp gravel and rock.
I put my brand new VFF in backpack just in case. It is cold (35F) and wet so it takes me some time to warm up my feet and then I feel quite comfortable. I constantly scan the road avoiding "the big stuff", not worrying about "the small stuff". I run for 40 minutes (4.4 miles) and turn back. I am trying to relax the feet and the soft landing as much as I can fighting the pain from stepping on the rocks. I am able to run back for 20 more minutes than give up and put VFF on and finish the last 20 minutes.

The total is 8.8 miles in 1 hour 25 minutes and my feet are burning. After checking I find about 4 small bruises from the sharp rocks (all in the soft arch areas) but that's it. I feel great overall.

Now I am really looking forward to my next concrete run because that is going to be such a piece of cake after this adventure.

But trail running is a new challenge for me which I like so I am going to try the same trail after a week hoping to run it more relaxed.

A couple of pictures from the trail:

Thursday, November 18, 2010

"Aren't you afraid of stepping on glass ? "

A typical question barefoot runners get all the time.

My answer always is "Aren't you afraid of cutting your hand when using a knife ?".

Because the risk of both injuries is about the same and nobody makes a big deal out of a small cut.

The truth is I have never stepped on a big piece of sharp glass that would actually cut my foot. Such obstacles are easily avoidable because you are not running blind and you can seem them very well.

What you do not see are just very small glass slivers you occasionally step on and once in a blue moon they get embedded into your foot.

They do not do any damage and you just dig them out easily after your run. Nothing worse than taking care of a small cut on your finger from slicing an onion.

A little glassy bugger found tonight during inspection of my feet after the run.

Monday, November 1, 2010

So far I have been always running just for fun and have not had any urge to participate in races until yesterday.
I ran my very first race ever - 10k Run Like Hell Portland! It is a costume optional race and I opted to go Hawaiian.

8 AM in the morning, 53 F, raining and windy.
From the very start I feel great, relaxed and quite enjoying having so many people around me running after my 4 months of isolation
I pick up speed right away steadying at my ususal cadence 180 BPM. I start passing people. A lot of people. All in shoes, I only see two or three in Vibrams.
My feet warm up in about 10 minutes and I am running through every single puddle I see. Splashing water everywhere. Jumping. Never felt such a freedom while running before. It si awesome. I wish I can do this forever.
When I sprint to the finish line I do not feel my feet touching the ground. I feel like a bird flying. I pass all five runners before me and hit the line. What a feeling!

My time was 48 minutes (my new PR for 10k) which placed me 7th from 43 in my age division and 81st from 1140 overall.

The best of all, I felt great, my feet feel great, not a single blister and no soreness whatsoever. Just Happy. It must be the adrenaline Or it must be the running in rain. Or both.
I am ready to sing up for another race tomorrow (not that here is anything going on right now ) and I guess I am hooked !

Sunday, October 31, 2010

My BFR form analysis

After 4 months of BFR I finally managed my wife to videotape me so I can see what my form looks like and look for things to improve.
The video is from running a 4 mile Halloween race in Vancouver, WA.
Cadence 180 BPM, 7:30 pace run.

The same in slow motion.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A piece of rock in my foot

I am feeling something has embedded in my foot.

4 weeks ago, being barefoot all day long outside, I must have stepped on something.

I noticed later that day in the evening there is a small cut on my sole, it did not hurt so I did not pay any more attention to it.

Two weeks pass, the cut is not healing at all, I start feeling it at every step and of course all the time when running barefoot. I try to do a foot surgery on my own, needle, tweezers, hobby knife, nothing comes out.

It starts swelling, time to visit urgent care. The doctors says there may be something inside so she cuts it inch deep and finds nothing but a lot of infection.

7 days on antibiotics and a pause on barefoot running.

At a follow up visit the doctor is not happy with the healing process because the infection is not going away. She sends me to x-ray which is negative = no foreign body in foot.

After a week the swelling goes away, the spot almost heals up. It does not hurt at all but I still have that "stepping on a little rock" sensation in that place and there is still a tiny circular hole in the middle of the injured spot. It is also very hard when I squeeze it.

It feels like there must be something inside but after the wound has been cut open and explored by the doctor and x-rays have been done I am totally puzzled.

Not sure what to do next, maybe I will just give it some more time and see what happens.

I can keep running barefoot but at every step I get that "stepping on a little rock" sensation in that place.


Two week later

Long live the body's self-healing power !!

It took 2 more weeks and the cause of my troubles finally surfaced

It was just a very small piece of gravel, it must have been encapsulated inside and one day after a long time in a pool the skin on my sole was so soft that after squeezing the spot I was able to push it out.
I can run again without any foreign body sensation and it feels great !!

Still puzzled by the fact the doctor could not see it when digging inside but whatever.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

About me

Here is a little something about me, my introduction as a member of Barefoot Runners Society .

Daniel, or “Paraganek” as he is known at Barefoot Runners Society, is a 41 year-old Czech national who has lived the past eleven years in the United States. Daniel received a masters in building construction from Brno University of Technology, Czech Republic, and in 1999, he and his then girlfriend Zdenka came over on a visitor’s visa for what was initially a short stay.

They intended to travel and Daniel hoped to find some short-term work in order to further his career experience as an architectural illustrator.  He landed a job in Toledo, Ohio, where they lived for three years before relocating to Portland, Oregon, for another job. In Portland, Daniel and Zdenka married and a year later celebrated the birth of their son.

Six years on…and we are still here postponing our return back home from year to year.  We just love it here in the Northwest because we love the outdoors – high mountains, ocean, deep forests, river canyons, pristine lakes, volcanoes, high desert, year round skiing... you pick …  My whole family lives back in the Czech Republic.  I have a 4 year younger brother Paul who practices architecture in Prague.  My parents come for a visit once a year, mainly to see our son because he is their first and only grandson (so far, working hard on more to come :-).”

Daniel explains his hobbies and nickname.
Back in the Czech Republic, I used to be an avid paraglider.  I was paragliding for two years on performance class gliders.  (My nickname Paraganek means “little paraglider” in Czech).
After moving to the States in 1999, I refocused more on hiking and backpacking, mountaineering, skiing, snow-shoeing, and mountain biking.  I also love exploring secrets of photography and computer graphics.”

Most recently, Daniel’s activities have included running.
I started running shod in May of 2010.  I was running just 5K twice a week, but soon enough, I started developing some knee pain.  I went online searching for a remedy on various runners' forums and stumbled upon barefoot running technique - ‘The natural way of running’ and ‘running the way God intended you to’ stuff.  It just instantly hit me.  It all seemed so logical and natural.  And it was a big challenge for me, which I liked.  So I kicked off my shoes in June and went for all the fun.  A couple of blisters in the first three weeks but then no pain, happy knees, smiley face, and great feeling.  I was hooked.” 

Daniel’s favorite distance is also his favorite race, the 10k Run Like Hell! Portland, because he says it was not only his very first race but he had a new 10K PR of 48:19, as well as a great running memory:  It was his first time running in the rain, and he delighted in running through all the puddles along the route and during, which he felt absolutely free and filled with pure enjoyment of the run.  Other PR times include a 7:47 mile and 30:00 4 miles.

About the same time Daniel tossed his shoes, he joined the Barefoot Runners Society because, according to him that place is the best, very active,, and extremely helpful community of barefoot runners I have found on the web.”

And to sum up why he runs and why he runs barefoot, he has a wonderfully concise way of expressing it. 
"It just feels so great.  It is so simple.  I just step out and do it.  All I need is my body.”

Daniel climbing Mt. Hood
Climbing Mt. Hood, OR

Daniel, Zdenka and Lukas

Daniel finishing 10k Run Like Hell