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

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Foot shape change

Back in June 2010 when starting running barefoot I was reading a lot of about how to transition properly and what changes to your body to expect. I also stumbled upon an article about structural changes happening to your feet when running barefoot by Tellman Knudson.
5 Structural Changes to Expect in Your Feet

A short list:

1. Spreading of the toes.
2. Bones becoming unfused in forefoot.
3. Loosening and flexibility of the toes.
4. A wider, more muscular foot.
5. Inability to Be Comfortable Wearing (Any) Shoes.

It got me really curious to find out if any of that would really happen so I took a camera and shot a couple of pictures of my feet from different angles and took a couple of pictures of my soles too.

Have been running for over two years now so decided to take a shot of my forefoot again for a comparison.

Forefoot shape change over 28 months of running barefoot

It is quite amazing to see the change. Not only the toes are spreading properly but the whole foot becomes more muscular and the transverse arch is more prominent now.

I am hoping in the next couple of years the pinky toe will realign to its proper position as well to get even more stability in my feet.