Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Sorry I haven’t updated in a while! I have been running often, though, and have had some great runs!

I ran barefoot on the beach for about 2 miles a month or so ago. That was a lot of fun. The only complaint is that the beach is not an even surface, so it bothers my ankles a bit to run on the beach (whether I wear shoes or not). But the view sure is nice and I almost always see dolphins on my runs out there.

We also went on a trail run (wore my Vibrams for that) and I just love trails. I love hopping over the roots and rocks because it makes me feel like a kid again. The mileage on that run was a little over a 5K.

We went on a long run 2 weeks ago (5.25 miles) and that was great. That is the longest run I have ever done (even when I was wearing clunky shoes) so I am excited about that. I wore a cheap pair of Nike water shoes for the run and they were good and I had no issues (I did wear socks).

On a speed related note, I now have the ability to go faster than when I wore my regular running shoes! I am a seriously slow runner, but am excited to report that I ran a 12 minute mile last week! I felt like I was going to be ill while doing it, but I pushed through. I hope to get to a 10 minute mile at some point!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Mt. LeConte Hike

This past weekend was the big trip to TN to hike up Mt. LeConte in the Smoky Mountains. We planned this trip almost a year and a half ago, after we hiked halfway up and could go no further due to being grossly out of shape. We decided we would get in better shape and brave the mountain this year.

When I checked the weather a few days before the trip it was high 65 low 46, so that did not seem very cold and figured I wouldn't need much in the way of foot protection...but when I checked the weather the day before the trip, the mountain was now hovering in the high 46 low 22 range! It also snowed on top of the mountain, but luckily (or unluckily) it was mostly melted by the time we went hiking. Due to the colder-than-anticipated temperature, I went to a great little store called In Search of Balance and bought some Injinji toe socks for my Vibrams (this would turn out to be the best idea I ever had).

Sunday morning we got up as early as possible. I was feeling nauseated (presumably from the pizza I ate the night before) and didn't eat very much for breakfast, but I wasn't going to let anything get in the way of me conquering that mountain!

When we got to the trail head we realized that it was pretty darn toes were freezing, despite the socks, and I wondered if wearing my Vibrams was a wise decision. But it was too late by that point and I figured they would warm up with the exertion of hiking.

Early on in the hike.

The elevation on the top of the mountain is 6,593 feet (did I mention I live in Florida?) so the inclines and elevation was a killer. The hike was 11 miles round-trip and most of the trail was filled with jagged and pointy rocks (fun!). Luckily, my toes did warm up early into the hike and I was no longer worried that they were going to fall off.

This picture barely does the trail justice; the rocks were extremely jagged

I was very careful to watch where I was going and to be mindful of how and where I was stepping. The Vibrams turned out to be a good choice because the rocks were wet and slippery and part of the trail was muddy. The Bikilas have good traction and I slipped maybe once or twice the whole time (no falling, luckily). I did get a few people commenting on my "toe-things" but they were positive and/or curious. Some asked how I liked them for the hike and I said that they work very well, but that you do have to be extra vigilant.

I was so focused on how I was stepping that I forgot to pay attention to what I was doing with my legs. I have a tendency to push off and step up with my right leg only and since I do that so often, I don't even realize it until it is too late. I hurt my leg pretty early on in the hike doing this and once I realized what had happened, no amount of attempting to overcompensate by stepping up with my left leg was going to fix my issue. I am fairly certain I strained my hip flexor.

But like I said, nothing was going to stand in my way! I was the slowest in our party of 4, but no one seemed to mind. I huffed and puffed my way up (yes, I am in much better shape than last year, but we have no hills in FL; hiking this trail made me feel very out of shape!)

At Inspiration Point (almost halfway). That's me on the far left

Alum Cave Bluffs (halfway point)

We made it up to the top--where there's a lodge (and bathrooms!)--in 4 hours. We bought a sack lunch from the lodge (best $9 ever spent) and tried to recover for a little bit. We stayed up there for about 45 minutes, but we had to get going if we were going to make it out of the woods before dark.

At the Lodge

My foot in the snow at the top

By this time, the pain in my leg was hellish, but at least it was all downhill. The downside to this, though, is that the rocks were even more treacherous and slippery going down. I had to not only be careful of how/where I was stepping, but I had my leg to contend with. I was still slow, but tried to pick up the pace a bit so that I wouldn't be the cause of us being stuck in the woods at dark.

It took us 3 hours to get down and during the last couple of miles I just wanted to cry because of the pain. Fortunately, we wandered out of the trail just as the last traces of light left the sky.

We did 11 miles in 7 hours, and I was in pain almost all of those hours, but I did it! I am proud that I climbed the mountain and was happy to have done it all in the Vibrams.

It is now 2 days later and I am still recovering. My leg is slowly getting better, but my calf muscles are on fire. The only thing that doesn't hurt are my feet, which is surprising considering all the jagged rocks I walked on. Everyone else in our party has very sore calves as well and they were wearing regular shoes, so I don't think the soreness has all that much to do with the Vibrams.

My best friend, who went with us, is already talking about doing it again! This time, I'm going to do some hill training on the treadmill or something so that I can be more prepared. I also have to work on my leg issue (perhaps some strength training to even out the muscles).

Now, I will leave you with a few more pictures of the hike.


The views were breathtaking

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Trail Running!

Yesterday, I went on my first trail run. It was amazing! I went to Morris Bridge Park in Tampa, FL (about 45 minutes away from where I live).

Not only was the weather finally amazing (about 71 degrees, as opposed to the usual 90+), but the trails were shaded and cool. I had a feeling I would like trail running better than road running (due to reading all the various blogs (check out Vanessa Runs; it's great!) about trail running and reading descriptions in Born to Run) and it was definitely better.

Instead of running on pavement with a bunch of other runners (as I usually do) I was running with just my SO. There were a few others on the trail (bicyclists) but those were few and far between. I was really out there in nature and loving every minute of it! There is just something about the serenity of the wilderness and the feeling of roots and dirt under your feet that makes you feel like a kid again.

I wore my Vibrams and they were great...except for the one time I accidentally stepped on a sharp and pointy rock (my foot is still a little sore where the rock hit my foot) but all in all, I am injury free and it was a long run (for me). I did about 8 miles in total, but I did not run the whole time. I alternated between walking and running, but 8 miles is still the longest I have ever gone (in regular running shoes or not). I normally force myself to run the entire time I am out...but this time I didn't feel the need to. I stopped for water, stopped to catch my breath, and stopped to take pictures. I did not want to push myself too hard and risking doing TMTS, so I listened to my body and walked when I needed it.*** Took 120 minutes, so it was a great workout (I always wear my Heart Rate Monitor).

Today, my calf muscles are a bit sore, but nothing too bad and definitely not as bad as when I first started wearing the Vibrams. So, there will be no running today (hopefully tomorrow). I don't know how I can go back to road running, as there aren't really any good trails in my immediate vicinity.

***I should also point out that I have worn my Vibrams to theme parks and have worn them for 6-8 hours at a time and, when not wearing Vibrams, I mostly wear Chuck Taylors, so I am definitely working on conditioning my muscles. I would probably not recommend going all crazy and doing 8 miles after a relatively short period of time, though.

Below are some pictures from the run:

Always remember to Run Smiley! :)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Shoes Hurt!

I am a minimalist runner. Or, more accurately, I am trying to become one.

I started out as a “shod” runner after going through the process of having my gait analyzed (I overpronate) and purchasing a pair of stability running shoes. I’ll be honest and state that I initially loved them. This was mostly due to the fact that when I began running in January of 2011 (using a program called Couch-to-5K) I started in shoes that were definitely NOT made for running. Thus, I had some knee issues, so when I purchased the stability shoes it felt like I was running on clouds.

Then I needed replacement shoes a mere 3 months later (I am hard on shoes) and they had already upgraded the model. So, I purchased the newest model and thought they seemed fine, at first. Then I started to up my mileage (I am trying to train for my first half marathon) and I got up to 5 miles. After that five mile run, I got a pretty painful foot injury. Of course, this could have been a case of TMTS (Too Much Too Soon) because I had taken a few days off from running and then did the five mile run (previously my longest run was a little over 4 miles).

The pain started near the ball of my left foot (on the outside and underneath) and ended in front of my heel. I could not locate the pain by touching or pressing on my foot, but could not walk without limping. In addition, I started to experience Plantar Fasciitis symptoms on my right foot.

I thought I had done too much or perhaps the new model was not good for me (they changed the heel cup a bit and I bought the regular width, whereas my first pair had been 2E, as I had lost weight). I may have forgotten to mention it, but I am overweight, as well. I started running at about 95 pounds overweight and I am now about 35 pounds overweight. So, I am sure that may have played a part in my foot issues, as well.

I went to a Sports Medicine doctor who X-Rayed both feet and said the bones were fine, but that I definitely do not have “runner’s” feet. I have mid to low arches, lack of motion in my ankles, and I overpronate (according to him). He said, of course, I can still run, but to take it slow and wear orthotics in all of my shoes except for my running shoes, as he states that the running shoes already offered enough support. He also said he did not know what was wrong with my foot but said possible tendonitis and he gave me a prescription for some topical anti-inflammatory cream and told me I should be fine in a few days.

Well, a few days passed and my foot was still bothering me. I did not run during this time. I did notice, however, that it was better when I was barefoot. Then, I went on a hiking trip to Stone Mountain, GA. I tried to hike up the mountain wearing shoes, but my foot still hurt.

So, I took off my shoes and hiked the mountain barefoot with no pain.

I purchased Born to Run for the drive home from GA and it made me want to capture the joy of running. It also made me realize that maybe it was the shoes giving me issues and that there might be a reason why my foot does not hurt when I am sans supportive shoes. It may have also made me want to be an Ultra Runner, but I am definitely nowhere near that caliber of a runner…yet.

I purchased some Vibrams (Bikala LS) and I love them because they do not make my feet hurt. I did my research and, although most say to start out completely barefoot and then transition to a minimalist shoe, that seems very difficult for me, personally. I would like to try barefooting, but it is uncomfortable to do so. At this time, I am trying to run successfully in the Vibrams.

I did wear the Vibrams for walking a few times before trying a run. I wore them while hiking and while walking around an amusement park. I did experience the calf pain that everyone refers to when wearing minimalist shoes or going barefoot (this is due to the fact that traditional shoes have a raised heel and, thus, they shorten your Achilles Tendon and calf muscles). So, once you are walking in a natural position, your calf muscles feel it since they are not accustomed to this.

After the heinous pain subsided (after about 3 days), I went for a short run (about ¼ of a mile) and it felt pretty great. I was landing on the balls of my feet with my heels lightly touching the ground. It was a whole new experience as when I wear shoes, I am a heavy heel-striker and pretty flat-footed when I run. My steps were so light, comparatively, that my breathing was heavier than my step!

I have since gone for about 4 more runs with the Vibrams and am now up to 2 miles in them. My calf muscles do not hurt any longer, but may do so when I try to up my mileage more. Best of all, my foot does not hurt when I run!

I will keep this blog updated so that people, if they so choose, can follow the (mis)adventures of an overweight (that will change soon) minimalist (oh and did I mention, S L O W) runner.