Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Barefoot Experience

My story begins last night; I arrived home late last night probably around 10:00 pm I just got back from Prince George. I was tired, Jen was tired it was a long day. On the days where I don’t get a chance to run in the mornings I always feel kind of blah no matter what the day unfolds. Today was one of those days. Tomorrow I would be driving up to Kelowna. My plan was to get up early and take Koda for a run, take the kids to school and head out. I carefully laid out my running gear for an early morning run the previous day because I knew I’d be getting home late I had already packed for Kelowna.

“You’re alarm isn’t set is it?” My beautiful wife asks.

“Yup, I’m going to take Koda for a run.”

“But you’re going to Kelowna tomorrow. You’ll probably run tomorrow night”

She had a point. I was planning on doing a double; you know two workouts in one day. But I was really tired and could probably use the extra sleep so I turned my alarm off.

I awoke the next morning to the sound of Jen’s alarm. A quick glance at my watch and I had come to the realization that I had about 5 minutes to let the dogs out and make some coffee before I had to yard the kids out of bed. The morning always seems rushed when I sleep late. Coffee’s on, kids are up and fed, teeth brushed, books and lunches packed and damn it is already 8:00! It’s time to go to school. I run downstairs grab my suitcase; out of the corner of my eye I see my Garmin . . . can’t forget that. I throw the suitcase and my laptop in the van before we pack up the kids and walk the kids to school. Smooth!

I always listen to podcasts on the way up to Kelowna. It sure beats music. I probably only own 300 songs and of that only 100 are mine. So podcasts are always new, always varied and always free. I love podcasts. I was listening to Chris Russell talk about the new running movement started by Chris McDougall’s book “Born to Run”. Everybody is talking about this book and how barefoot running can be good for you. Steve from the Phedippidations podcast spent an entire show on the topic. Funny enough the very next podcast I listened to Running with the Pack and Allan and Jeff were talking about the same book. I thought to myself that one day I would like to try barefoot running.

No sooner had I thought that then this dread came over me. “My shoes”, I thought to myself,” My f—king shoes . . . I don’t have my running shoes with me”. I quickly pulled over to the shoulder of the highway and opened my suitcase. A cry of frustration echoed through the mountains through which I was travelling. I brought everything but my shoes. A deep calm suddenly passed over me. I’ll try barefoot running. How hard could it be?

How hard indeed? I thought about where I could run. I ruled out the streets because of the potential for broken glass and other crap. I ruled out the trail because there would be too many stones and rocks. I thought the best place to run would be a track, especially a rubberized track. It would be clean enough, flat enough, and the rubberized surface would offer some cushion. Kelowna was bound to have one.
So after work I quickly checked into my hotel, booted up Google Earth and started scanning for a rubberized track. The Apple Bowl met my requirements and was only a few blocks away. Even though it was a few blocks away I chose to drive for fear of stepping on something prior to my arrival at the track. The stadium is a beautiful facility not only does it has a rubberized track but it has covered concrete stands on one side of the field where aspiring fitness geeks run the stairs flight after flight. On the far side of the field they have more bleachers for the overflow seating. The stadium is the home of the Kelowna Sun, the local junior football team. From what I hear they are quite good. It’s a good thing there was no practice today because then the track would be closed.

I stripped down to my shorts and took off my work boots and socks. The glow from my untanned feet and the distinct line around my ankles signified to the world that I was new to this barefoot revolution. With slight trepidation I walked across the lanes and took a glance at Lane 2. No sense in grabbing the inside lane, I’ll leave that for the faster runners, not that there were any I had the track to myself. Start the Garmin and off I go.

Lap 1 was a breeze. It felt really odd at first suddenly my toes were free, independent of each other. The track was coarse and had a lot of traction to it. Surprisingly my stride didn’t feel much different. Lap 1 went down in 2:08, not bad!? My intent was to get in a good run possibly 5 miles which would be about 20 laps. I didn’t know if I could hold that pace or not. It didn’t feel hard so I just went with it.

Lap after lap went by no aches or pains to report. I turned my iPod on and listened to some music. I checked my Garmin auto lap and the consistency was incredible. As I approached lap 18 I checked my cumulative mileage. I had already hit 5 miles? Could running in lane 2 and 3 add that much more mileage? I told myself 20 so twenty it would be. As I crossed the line to start lap 20 I felt something under my right heel. Could it be a pebble? Nope it started to burn. Damn I think I was getting a blister.

As I completed lap 20 I immediately headed to the infield to sit down and assess the damage. Ouch! I had matching quarter sized blisters on the heels of both feet. And my baby toes new found freedom didn’t bode well for them either, blood blisters for the two of them.

I ended the session with 5.5 miles in the bank. If I had stopped at 5 miles I might have walked away with only a hotspot. The skin on the heel is really thick so I’m debating whether to lance it or not. As I write this I’m resting my feet. The rest of me feels really good no joint pain in the hips, knees or back. I should have done less but I was so eager to get some miles in I over did it. I don’t see this deterring my running the rest of the week. I wouldn’t be able to run tomorrow if I had shoes simply because it is a travel day. I’ll let you know how it goes Thursday!

Just keep moving.

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