Saturday, July 30, 2011

Found my first Run :)/Smiley tag...

So I was bored on a Saturday night, trying to work out how best to tag the sidewalk with chalk over the next week. Then I found this.  My first random websearch find of someone (who's not identified themselves as part of the Collective, but who is a silent observer) who tagged his blog Run :)/Run Smiley.

Importantbutnotall from Lake Superior.  We found ya!

Run Smiley Challenge #2: Chalk Smiley

Okay, its been a few weeks sine the inaugural Run Smiley Challenge tried to get you off the trails and up a tree. Like running just for the pure joy of it, tree climbing is one of those things most of us enjoyed in childhood, but for some reason give up as we become "mature" adults. For the next challenge, I decided to follow the theme and reclaim another lost childhood art: sidewalk chalk.

On one of your runs this week, take along a piece of chalk (or two, or three. Or a whole bucket if you're ambitious). And at some point, where other runners will see see it, leave a smiley message. It can be a quote, an aphorism, just words of encouragement or a simple reminder to smile. It can be overtly about running, or just something you just think relates. It can be by someone famous, infamous, or something you came up with yourself. It can even be from the Bad-Ass Motivational School of Thought, if you really want, but I think keeping it Smiley would be best. (But one of the Rules of the Challenge is There Are No Rules -- if Kate can climb a rock for the "Climb a Tree" challenge, anything goes).

So write out a message to your fellow runners, and sign it with the Run Smiley logo. If you want (and are artistically inclined), add some drawings to spice it up -- anything as long as it might make another runner smile, and makes you stop in your run and smile yourself. Then take a picture of your work and submit it, along with a story or caption (if you'd like). You can e-mail your picture to me at mrvandyke[at], send it to Kate, our fearless [insert official title as-yet-to-be-determined here], or post it to the Run Smiley Facebook page. Or print it and send it via carrier pigeon -- it doesn't really matter how it gets to me, so if you think of some other way to submit your photo, go for it.

Last week I had a grand total of three submissions (counting my own), and this week I'd love some more. No, I demand more -- this is homework, people. And yes, it counts toward you final grade. The challenge ends next Sunday (more or less -- again, Fast and Loose isn't just how I like my foot turnover), so grab some chalk and go run smiley!

[Also, I'd love ideas for future challenges. Send them to me at the e-mail address above. Thanks!]

A Matter of Perspective

Hi!  I'm new! (duh, right?)  Anyway, I'm really glad to have fallen in with this crowd and I look forward to sharing the most inane moments of my running life with everyone else's audience!  Muahahaha!!

So to get to know each other I thought my first post would be the following article.  This was something I wrote over at BarefootRoot as my first shot at an "Introducing myself to the Smileys" article back on July 16th, where I took an extremely passive attempt at getting the Smileys' attention through gratuitous use of blog tags.  I'm here, so it must have paid off!   ...  or maybe it was that I had constantly pestered Kate until she finally just let me in to get me off her back! ;)

Anyway, I hope you enjoy it!  -Troy "BarefootRoot"
It's a weird thing for me to identify with a lot of other runners, not only because I am in a distinct minority (being barefoot) but because since I am a mid to back of the pack runner I tend to hover near people who are running for a specific reason: to get in shape.  Well, that's the reason I think most of them run.  And to be honest, that was why I started running.

This is no longer the case for me though.  Once I read Born to Run, as many runners (shod and barefoot) have, I realized something: running isn't something I should be suffering through.  It isn't something I should be dreading, or feel I have to do to lose a couple pounds (although I admit it does help with the tonnage).  It's something we were made to do, that I did a lot as a kid, and for some reason I forgot about it.

It probably goes back to gym class, if I had to guess.  I have no idea if they still do this, but when I was a kid they had the Presidential Fitness program, and we had to go through this gauntlet of torture devices to prove we weren't a generation of couch potatoes.  Oddly enough my generation has been (probably) a big part of the fattening of the USA, so I get the impression these tests didn't achieve the goals it was designed for.  Anyway, we had this series of grueling trials like pull-ups, push-ups, sit-ups and of course, running laps around the gym.  I found these things to be fairly difficult (I was more intellectually-inclined) and the fact we had no choice on participation made me actually hate/fear strenuous physical activity, and exercises in particular.

Sure, I could perform physical tasks and sometimes enjoy it, but when it came to hunkering down for a "workout" I just had no patience and little tolerance so in the end I simply avoided the whole hornet's nest.

Fast forward to high school and for some reason I decided to join the wresting team.  I still have no idea what possessed me to do it, and ultimately it introduced me to something that would sour me on running in particular for a long time: stair laps.

Yeah, you did hear the ominous "dun dun duuuunnnnn" music when you read that.  Or if you like to laugh at the misfortune of others maybe you heard the sad trombone or Nelson Muntz's "Haw Haw!"

Stair laps were these awful things that we had to do at the beginning (and sometimes the end) of every practice.  They involved running down the hall to the gym (we practiced in the cafeteria), then up two flights of stairs, the length of the gym, down  two flights of stairs, the width of the gym, wash, rinse, repeat.  For something like 20 minutes.  The dudes who were actually in shape, and most of them were either football players or cross country runners, handled it real well.  Coming from the world of Band and Architecture Classes I fared somewhat less well.  The laps were actually something that could have been extremely good for me (I realize now), but they were so torturous I decided to loathe them and running in general... for the next 18 years.

So then fast forward back to the beginning of this story where I mentioned reading Born to Run and it opened up an attitude that had been lost for decades: an actual desire to go out and run.  I slowed down and worked on making my running form less painful while taking the time to observe the world around me and suddenly running was actually no longer a workout (which is something I tell everybody: if it feels like work you're working too hard)!

Since then I find myself running races cheering for the crowds who are supposed to be there cheering for us, trying to help people who look like they are struggling (usually by distracting them with endless -and mindless- chatter), cheering for volunteers (and actually volunteering for things) and generally being a more positive force for good in the world as opposed to the cynical bastard I used to be.  Instead of running because I have to, I run because I want to and because I want to run in the coolest places I can get to.  If I meet piles of great people along the way, all the better. :)

Quote of the Day

I just watched Jason Robillard's YouTube videos about his under-24 hour 100 mile run at Western States. At the end of the video these words appear:

"There may be something to this whole "run for fun" thing..."

Truer words have not been spoken.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Running Blind

I have been running most of my life, well, except that large gap in the middle of life called midlife, you know, that part where you drink too much and do crazy stuff to your body. As a young child, in Jr. High and in High School I ran on track teams. I was never the top guy I just liked to run

After High School I pretty much gave up on running because I found it a major pain, literally, running was a pain. It was a love hate relationship. I would suffer all year from shin splints and was totally relieved that I could finally stop running at the end of the season, heal and get on with exciting sports like skiing and drinking beer. As much as I loved running, rarely did I enjoy it. But there were moments, and many of those moments were mountain runs. For some reason running in the mountains on gnarly trails was never a pain, it was pure delight.

Well, move the clock forward to 2003, almost 25 years later, and I decide it is time to drag my unhealthy fat butt out the door and start hitting the road again. Immediately I begin to enjoy a run and feel like I missed something for a lot of my life. Just when it was getting good and visions of marathons pranced in my head, I needed some shoes and some “teenage mutant expert” in the local running store talked me into buying a pair of corrective, support, stability, padded for a fat guy running shoes. Within two weeks the shin splints of youth are back. But being a very determined, I hang in there for another 4 long years putting in a couple 3 mile runs a week. This all changed around 2008 when I started to move towards Barefoot and minimalist running and injuries started to drop away.

However I still have a few issues here and there and I attribute them to bad form. After all, I can’t blame shoes if I don’t wear them, right? As I get comfortable with my form, I start getting lazy, isn’t that always the case? Running Minimalist/barefoot was a god send for my running and now I need to take another step forward.

The other day I was running in my Vibram Five Finger KSO’s and I realized once again I was over striding. I worked hard to bring in the stride, land under my center of mass, increase cadence, be light and easy, Easy, light, float like a butterfly, yada yada yada and it was all intellectual, logical, not a “feeling” like it was working. Then it hit me, what if I close my eyes, what if I run blind and let my feet be my eyes? It seemed crazy enough that it might just work.

I was on a long, flat, straight and safe stretch of blacktop pathway where I could experiment so I closed my eyes. Fear of glass and doggy doo hit me with each step I made in an endeavor to feel the road. I felt for each foot pick up off the road and sense the landing as close under me as possible. Each step I wanted to feel as much as I possibly could feel and become one with the road. Blind runner Zen or Nirvana, and then I went off onto the grass and almost wiped out. That is when I realized I would need to peek every now and then until I mastered running blind. Later I learned I had to peak now and then even after I mastered running blind. It is called common sense. Otherwise, I was going to run into a tree and that just wouldn’t be cool for the spectators or whoever might witness the wipeout!

Next I closed my eyes again and extended my mind to my feet and after a few seconds realized they were landing out in front of me again and then pulling me forward sort of like land, skid a little, brake, pull, kick off and push. Heck, no wonder I had blood blisters from last week’s race, all this chicken scratching that was going on below. I quickly made a correction and was landing under me again and then hit the grass edge. Crap, I opened my eyes and I realized I was veering to the right. I realigned with the path and closed my eyes, focused on the feet again and immediately I was over striding and reaching again but this time I noticed almost immediately and corrected. Then I started to feel the camber of the path, it was slight but I could feel it and then I hit the grass again. With my eyes closed I was compensating for the camber that sloped away to the left and I veered right almost as if running away from the slope uphill. I corrected and closed my eyes again.

This process went on for over 2 miles. As time went on, I found different issues with my stride like pushing off, pulling, over striding, and compensating for my sore ankle (another story), compensating for landing on objects (a good thing especially if it is dog poo). I started feeling cracks in the path as I landed; I felt my foot pronate as it landed and rolled to the ball and realized I was pushing off not lifting.

I found that in the beginning I was able to run 8-10 steps before needing to peek. Then it was 15 and then 20. I hope that someday I can pick a straight path and follow it for a minute blind using feet and ears as my guide.

So give it a try, Have fun running blind! If nothing more you will amuse other runners as they see you coming at them with eyes closed. Peak a little and when they are close say hello am I still on the sidewalk/road/trail or whatever works and then keep going.

You can read this and other original postings at StandingOnTop

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Beast and Ball

I went running last night in the sweltering heat. I thought it would be just a run but then the beast came out. I was on fire. I ran. I leaped. I took turns at dangerous speeds and angles. I dodged vehicles (not literally, so breathe). I laughed in the face of danger (pebbles and stones). When I wanted to go faster, I just did it. I conquered the urban jungle. I was the monkey, the eagle, and the lion.

When I, the beast, entered the park, I began hunting a tree to fulfill the request of The Urban Runner. Howbeit, that search got negleted quickly.

This sanctuary of nature also hosts our little league baseball fields. Empty baseball fields flood my mind with childhood memories. I was lured to the field to relive a particular memory. Like Fields of Dreams, I enterd a different time and place as soon as I passed through the fence opening.

I swaggered up to home plate staring down the pitcher. (I ignored the real life guy that drove up in the pickup truck staring at me strangely). I got into my batter's stance. The pitch came into the sweet spot. I swiftly swung and hit that imaginary ball over the heads of the outfielders. I took off for 1st as the ball rolled out to the fence at the 200 yard marker. I headed to 2nd where a glance toward the outfield told me to press on. I took a wide turn around 3rd and knew I could stretch this baby to a homer. One hard smack of my foot on home plate brought the fantasy team out of the dugout as I cheerfully jogged back. Illusory high fives were given as a big smile sat upon my face.

Back to that tree, I put one barefoot on a couple of trees but didn't feel ready to master any. Maybe next time. In the mean time, I challenge all the run smileys to hit a few home runs of their own.

I resumed my standard form of a 30 something mom, wife, runner and headed out of the park to run a bit further, walk a bit further, and run a little further again. One thing was constant in whatever form I was in, I smiled.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

In a Runner's Head

A three-way conversation in my head during a run early this week:

walking through the lobby of the gym...

Me: This should be fun. It's not as hot as last week.

through the revolving door and down the steps in lower Manhattan...

Me: Ugh, its still humid.
Smiley Angel: Oh come on, this'll be fun anyway. Just take it easy. Enjoy the morning! You're bound to see something interesting or beautiful.
Me: You're right. I'll make this a SSS. Short, Slow, Sweet.
The "Other Angel": Yeah right. Every time you say that you end up turning it into negative splits at tempo speeds. But nothing wrong with that. Who cares?
Me: No, I have a big meeting later today so I really should take it easy and slow.

reaching to push start on my Garmin...

The "Other Angel": Good job, let's get to it!
Smiley Angel: Now what would your friends in the Collective think? You should have left that thing home today.
Me: I'm not going to look at it during the run. I just want to log the miles. You know, the 10% rule and all.
Smiley Angel: Uh huh.... Well, why don't you make an effort to really sense your surroundings. Try to notice things you've never seen here before. Maybe strike up a conversation with someone.
The "Other Angel": Yeah, I'm sure there are plenty of friendly people out here this morning.... NOT

past the Staten Island Ferry Terminal, entering Battery Park. Around the corner and then headed North along the path. Passing some older men with about a dozen fishing poles in the Hudson River...

Me: I wonder if they know that there was a fire at the sewage treatment plant a couple miles upriver and the water is off limits.
Smiley Angel: Smile and say hi!
Me: "Good morning guys"
Fishermen: (something about no zapatos, not directed at me)
The "Other Angel": I bet they catch a lot of fish today. The fish probably want to get OUT of the water.

settling into an easy pace...

Me: OK, check out the form. Light steps. Midfoot. Think Groucho. Is the cadence fast enough? Probably not. OK, shorter strides. Don't lean forward you dope.
The "Other Angel": Yeah, you dope. You're not breathing correctly either. Where's the 3-2 pattern? No, that's 2-2. Slow it down. Concentrate.
Smiley Angel: Look at all the runners out this morning. Probably because of the cooler weather and it's Monday. The Monday guilt after the weekend festivities. Make sure you say hi. Smile. Be friendly.
The "Other Angel": Friendly? Ha! These are New Yorkers!

a 20-something guy in $250 shoes glides by at about 5:50 pace...

Me: He's flying. Half my age and probably half my pace.
Smiley Angel: Yeah, so? You should have said hello.
The "Other Angel": LOL. By the time he heard you he would have been too far ahead for you to hear a response!

across the plaza next to the World Financial Center... passing a group of middle-aged women runners...

Me: "good morning ladies"
Smiley Angel: Good job!
One lady: "morning"
Other ladies, quietly to each other: "no shoes... crazy... I could never.... in NYC?"

2 mile mark, approaching a decision point.....

Me: Should I keep going up the West side? Or run out onto the new recreation pier and then turn back? 5-6 miles or just a little over 4?
Smiley Angel: The pier. You could stop there for a minute or two and check out the view of the river and NJ. It's a great day for it.
The "Other Angel": yeah, and drop your heart rate and end up with fewer miles than you had planned for the week. Really?

turning out onto the pier....

Me: Someday I need to come over here and spend my lunch just lounging.
Smiley Angel: That's the spirit!

reaching the end of the pier where a few people are doing Tai Chi. Standing at the railing...

Me: Blue skies. Great skyline. I'm loving life.
The "Other Angel": yeah, and sewage in the river, and a crappy economy. Come on, get your butt in gear.
Smiley Angel: Remember to bring your camera next time.

headed back at a medium pace... I notice a runner with Vibram Five Fingers running the other way

Me: "Hey, love the Vibrams!"
Other runner:
Me: Guess he had his MP3 up too loud.
The "Other Angel": Or he's just a New Yorker

past the little area where the million dollar yachts are parked, then further South, through the plaza, and then shaded "boardwalk", as a senior lady runner approaches going the other way...

Me: smiling, "good morning"
Lady Runner: "morning, hey that's really cool! keep it up!"
Me: I guess she was talking about my bare feet.
Smiley Angel: or your smile
The "Other Angel": or your pace or your Garmin

past Fort Clinton and the launching point for the Statue of Liberty tour boats.... then past the war memorial...

Me: there is so much history here...
Smiley Angel: so much to be thankful for and be proud of
The "Other Angel": Really?

rounding the final corner..... waving to the (former marine) guard at the gate to the Coast Guard station...

Me: "Semper Fi"
Guard: "How far today?"
Me: "only about 4"
Guard: "In this heat? Good job!"
Me: "Have a good day"
Smiley Angel: "That a boy!"
Me: Don't forget the Garmin. (Reaching to hit the stop button)
Smiley Angel: "You didn't even look at it once. Maybe you don't need it."
The "Other Angel": "Oh come on. He'll upload the data as soon as he gets to the office."
Smiley Angel: "At least he ditched the tunes"

walking past the Ferry Terminal, dozens of people looking at my feet as I cross the street and reach the entrance to the gym.

Me: (smiling at the clerk at the desk) good morning!
Clerk: "barefoot again?"
Me: yep

through the doorway into the locker room....

Me: I'm so glad I run
Smiley Angel: me too
The "Other Angel": me too

The Ballad of the Barefoot Heel Striker/It Feels like the First Time

[The Run Smiley Collective Administrators Note:  I received these two posts from Jason Masterson.  I thought they followed each other quite nicely, so I posted them together in one post.  His blog can be found at]

Do you see that picture above? Those are my magic shoes…or Vibram Five Fingers, which ever suits you best. I made the switch to VFFs back in January of this year. What once was a painful relationship has blossomed into a full blown love affair. I love every minute of my runs while wearing these things. I am constantly reminded how great they are when a run gets slipped into the CrossFit WOD and i’m wearing my old pair of Brooks. I really miss my VFFs during those times. It’s a really cool sensation for all of the sensors in your feet to pick up on the turf beneath you. The best part is my feet, legs, and joints feel excellent after every run.
Have you noticed what is a bit off about my VFFs? As if the title and the giant red arrows didn’t give it away, the majority of the wear on the soles seems to be right at the heel. The problem with that is, every piece of information i have read about running barefoot talks about how the your foot strike will naturally move away from a heel strike and more towards a flat mid foot strike. Mainly because constantly landing our your heel is pretty painful. Though I did experience pain when i first began running in VFFs, it was more calf pain than anything. I never really had any issues with foot pain.
A typical run for me is about 3.25 miles. I have run 8 miles in my VFFs once during the Spartan Race. I do plan to start adding on the miles once marathon season starts to get a bit closer, but i am concerned. SHOULD I BE WORRIED? Of course i understand that i will need to build up mileage slowly to avoid injury. But if i am a chronic heel striker, i am a bit concerned that more mileage means a higher risk of a foot injury.
My goal is to run my next marathon in these bad boys. There is no reason why it can’t be done. I just don’t want to shatter my heels along the way. Perhaps i need to focus on a mid foot strike while i run, but that really takes away from the enjoyment of it all. If i have been primarily heel striking in my VFFs since January without experiencing any pain, perhaps that is just the way i run and my body has adjusted for it.
If you have any suggestions, please chime in. Although it has been 7 months, i still consider my self new to minimalist running. I endorse it 100%. It has completely changed my training for the better, but i still want to be cautious to avoid future injury as marathon season ramps up.

Last night I went for a run. Pretty cool right? But  
wait….there’s more! Though last night’s run may have seemed like an ordinary 3.25 mile jaunt in my neighborhood something was different. Something was a bit more…Primal. I decided that if i really wanted to become a good runner in my Vibram Five Fingers, that i needed to go full gorilla so to speak and run barefoot.If you follow all of my blogginess, you probably know i have been running in Vibrams for about 7 months now. I made the switch right after my first marathon back in January and never looked back. And if you actually enjoy reading my blogginess then you probably know i LOVE these things. Running becomes so much more of a total experience with them on rather than running just to pound the pavement.I find barefoot running very intriguing. Think about it. How long has the modern athletic shoe really been around. Since the 60s…maybe the 50s? So you mean to tell me a foot that has adapted it’s self over a few thousand years should feel right at home in a stifling foot cave wrapped in sacks full or air or gel? And because of these big bulky shoes, us modern runners have adopted foot strikes that would shatter a bare heel over long distances. Such is my plight with my vibrams. Even after 7 months of running in a minimalist shoe, i still heel strike. I wrote about it in one of my last blogs The Ballad of a Barefoot Heel Striker.

The Answer Is Simple…Less Is More.

I consulted with some of the more seasoned barefoot runners over at MDA to get some advice. The answer was simple. If you want to stop heel striking, take off the shoes and run barefoot. And so i did.
It’s amazing how taking off your shoes can make running feel like a brand new experience. I thought the vibrams allowed to feel every bit of the road, boy was i wrong. It was a pretty odd experience truly being able to feel every grain of dirt or twig or pebble on the asphalt. Oh and the asphalt is another story all together. I don’t think our ancestors intended on running long distances on pavement. The cold hard surface is unforgiving. Luckily i avoided the large piles of hypodermic needles, gun shell casings, and giant shards of glass. I did step on rocks, i did step on twigs, but none of that matters.  All of that will only strengthen the foot over time. What really mattered was my form instantly improved. I dont think i  had one heel strike. I couldn’t…it would of hurt too much.
By the end of the mile my feet were pretty tired and a little sore and started to get a small blister, but i slipped on my vibrams and finished out a great run. What was even more insane was after running true barefoot, putting my Vibrams on felt like slipping on a pair or Nike Air Jordan moon shoes. I hope to build up to one 3 mile barefoot run a week to help improve my form for longer runs in my vibrams. Until then i will enjoy the extremely odd looks i was receiving from the people around my neighborhood.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Barefoot on the Banks of the Deschutes: The Urban Trailrunner Heads West

Since I’ve been writing this blog, two ideas have repeated themselves a few times on these pages. First, that while I’m interested in exploring barefoot running, I have no real desire to become a full-fledged “barefoot runner” as such. Second, that while running on trails is great, running in an urban environment is just as enjoyable as running on rural trails.
One weekend in Bend changed my mind on both counts.
I still think that urban running gets short-changed by the running community, and by trail-runners in particular. I think the aesthetic and introspective potential of sidewalks, bridges, water-front promenades, and parks is much greater than most non-city runners imagine, and that I have and will continue to take great pleasure and find immense fulfillment in running in the city. That said, after running along the banks of the Deschutes, I think I would always choose to run on trails over running in the city if given that option.
I feel a bit guilty writing this, since my moniker for the Run Smiley Collective is “The Urban Trail Runner,” and I’ve sort of built my persona around being the defender of urban running. I don’t want to be an apostate or betray my love of New York. Urban running gets such a bad rap that I don’t want this to diminish my (still strongly held) belief that running in the city can be a rewarding, joyous, fulfilling experience. It is just that there was something more primal, more stripped-to-the-bones basic about being surrounded by nature. Perhaps its my Oregonian roots, a rural orientation hard-wired into my soul by two decades spent growing up in the Pacific Northwest, but there is something about escaping New York City, no matter how much I love living my life there, that connects to a deeply essential part of my being.
My shift towards actually embracing barefoot running came on the same run. I drove my sister’s car down to the Deschutes, which runs right through the center of Bend. A paved path runs along the bank, past very nicely manicured parks, shops, and water-side dining, and Anna had told me that if I followed the river south, there was a foot-bridge I could cross over to make a five mile loop. The first mile I ran on pavement in my Vibrams, enjoying the river and views of the snow-capped mountains in the distance, but not quite blown away; it was scenic, sure, but I was surrounded by hotels and restaurants and parks, no more or less idyllic than running along the Hudson back in New York. After a mile, however, the trail transitioned to dirt as it lead away from town and into the wilderness. I slipped off my Vibrams, tucked them under my arm, and continued barefoot.
I’ve never really had a chance to run barefoot on the right surface. I’ve done a mile or two on the track near my school, a mile or so on the pavement in Prospect Park. This trail, however, was perfect: hard-packed dirt with a soft, dusty layer on the surface. I’ve been working on my foot-strike and cadence enough that maintaining the right form was effortless, and in fact felt like the most natural thing in the world. Most of what I’ve read about barefoot running focuses on the claims that it results in reduced impact and injury, but for me the appeal is fully sensual: running barefoot on a dirt trail is indescribably enjoyable. There is the freedom on having no shoes, your toes and foot open to the air and the ground, the sensation of the slight give as you touch down on the soil, rough ground against your sole, then heel, then lightly stepping up and away again. When you are running correctly and everything slips into place, into harmony, effort and awareness melts away and you just are: gliding across the ground, up rises, down grades, feet and soil and air nearly indistinguishable. Everyone always asks if it hurts, but it is the opposite: the soles of your feet sing to you when you are running barefoot, they tell the tale of where you are and where you have been, they come alive with the actuality of being as intensely in a place as one can be. I’d read that the body instinctually reacts to avoid stepping on rocks and other objects, and its true: without even thinking about it, one’s weight shifts, one’s leg or foot pulls back just enough so that the you never land fully on any protrusion, but nearly glide over them.
Perhaps this is part of the reason that I came away in love with trail running in a way I never have before, because for the first time I ran on trail barefoot and I felt that I was not merely running the trail, but that I was the trail, that I was here and now and present and part of where I was in a way that was nearly overwhelming in its intensity, nearly spiritual in the way that it dissolved the boundary between self and location. An act as simple as removing the few millimeters of Vibram sole that divided my foot from the earth removed something larger and more fundamental as well.

I was on vacation, running late on a Monday morning, so I only passed a few other hikers and joggers. All nodded or smiled, but at one point I another man passed me headed in the opposite direction, a wiry, middle-aged runner who was also running without shoes. We nodded at one another, but there was an exchange shared in our smiles, a knowing glow in his eyes that I am sure was in mine as well; we knew something that the others on the trail did not share.
I’m not sure what this means for my running. I know that, if it were an option, I would never run in shoes again, that all my runs would be barefoot on dusty trails along rolling rapids and shadowed pines. I think I’ve done enough barefoot running now to make it a regular part of my routine (Monday’s was 3 miles barefoot and 2 in Vibrams, but I could have done all 5 barefoot) but the sidewalks of New York just aren’t the same. I’ll try running barefoot in the parks, and definitely run in my Vibrams more than I have. There are actually hundreds of fantastic trails only a short distance from New York, and in a few years, when our kids are a bit older, I know I will spend a lot of time exploring them. In the meantime, I think I will be mainly exploring the streets and sidewalks that make up my urban wilderness, with perhaps a bit more longing for dust under my toes . . .

Run, Bike, Kayak Smiley!

Didn't win the race, but I got the Blue Ribbon!
Original post by Zapmamak @ Running Naked on Sharp Pointy Stuff
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
No watch. No ipod. No phone. No technology whatsoever. I ran, biked and kayaked the Eppies 2011 Triathalon for the pure joy of it. Actually, I intended to bring my phone so I could do a short video or at the very least text my husband at the end, but I lost it right before the start of the race, which was a little stressful, but I had to let that go to find my happy place.
Mom's Igniting a Love For Fitness (Team MILFF)

I ditched all the "stuff" (well, everything but the Merrell Pace Gloves) so that I could truly enjoy this race. My intention was to "Run Smiley" the whole way which I did. Sorta. Well, that is until that bitch passed me on the bike leg for the third time. I looked up and she was in front of me. Again! Damn her! Ok. So that part wasn't so "Run Smiley", but a little competition never hurt anyone, right? Except that I really couldn't compete at my potential for this race. Only about four miles into the run I could feel my knee acting up. I was running my fastest race that I've done so far in minimal shoes. I felt strong and steady. Except for my knee. So I backed off to save it.  I wasn't sure how this would render itself on the bike. I finished the 5.82 mile run in 55:49:1.
Wha? Copping a feel?

Once on the bike, things were good. Transition was relatively fast except for a bit of a balloon entanglement, but I didn't have shoes to worry about. I didn't use clipless pedals. My husband set me up with BMX pedals so that my minimal shoes would grip and it worked like a champ. I started off strong. I felt like I had gotten past my nemesis knee and all was good. That is until about halfway into the ride when I started to push myself. Then it started. Something was crawling up and down my calves. What the hell was that? Then it started to lock up a little. Ow. I'm thinking, "Ok. That would be a cramp." I wondered if people behind me could actually see it running up and down my calf like some sort of alien pressing its face through my skin. That's how I pictured it. So I started talking to it. Really. I was muttering all sorts of shit to myself. Mostly, "You will NOT defeat me you mother fucker!" Yeah. I laugh at myself now. I wondered if that bitch in front of me heard that. Yeah. And her too. She will not defeat me! Except I think she did. So, I settled into a higher cadence so I could keep the cramping under control. This wasn't how I envisioned my "smiley" race to be at all.

Shortly after that I had the realization that I had only three sips of my Nuun during the first half of my run and a couple squirts of my homemade iskiate (the recipe of which my friend Kate Kift gave me. I must tell you now... it was the bomb!). I figured I was low on potassium. I immediately swigged my Nuun hoping that would take care of the cramping issue. It did. Eventually. But by the time everything felt good I was getting close to the kayak transition point. Damn. I had missed yet another opportunity to push myself. I had to remind myself that it was all about the joy of the race, not about my personal best or record. Yeah. I had to remind myself. I was getting frustrated. I completed the 12.5 mile bike portion of the race in 44:32:5.
Kayak put in. This is just the right side of the bridge.

I felt much better after finding my kayak and putting in. There's something about the water that grounds me and allows my mind to be present. I was so happy to be in my kayak and on the river. The river was flowing fast, but I had some time before I got to the rapids. I knew my upper body was in good shape to push myself so I dug in. I was much stronger this year since doing all my weight training and it was apparent with the way I felt. I had much more command through the rough spots this year.

I managed to get through the rapids smoothly this year without the traffic jam of tipped kayakers. There were a few who were dumped before I got there, but I was able to get around them without issue this year. Last year I ended up T-boning a guy who had tipped and was "waiting in line" to pull his kayak out. Yeah. There was a line of about four kayakers who were all pulling out of the water at the same time. T-boning was inevitable. I was glad to have avoided that this year.
Beginning the kayak leg.

After the rapids I was prepared to paddle my heart out. So that's what I did. I dug in and pushed myself at a pace that would teeter me on the brink of muscle failure. The fact of the matter, though, is that you are only as good as your kayak. Similar to the bike, if you don't have the right equipment, you probably don't stand much of a chance. I'm OK with that. Its not a seriously competitive race anyway. The majority of people on the water are in simple rec kayaks and only a handful have the long, sleek $15,000 versions. I don't have the money to spare for a kayak like that. I'm not sure I'd want to throw that much cash into something that gets as much abuse as my kayak gets throughout the year. I love my kayak. Its put up with a lot of crap from me and it still floats. There's a lot to be said for that. I completed the 6.35 mile kayak portion in 1:01:12.5.
Into the finish line!

TEAM M.I.L.L.F finishes strong!
Overall, I had so much fun and placed 31st in my age division out of 88 women. My overall time was 2:41:31.1 Not bad for having not pushed it for most of the race. I finished totally strong and had plenty of energy to spare as well as almost two full bottles of Nuun leftover, a couple gel packs, and a bar still in my pouch. Yeah. I still have to figure out this race nutrition. I've never felt I needed it and am still in the habit of not doing much about it which I know I need to change. I did, however, use the whole 5oz. of my homemade iskiate which might have been all I needed. It was so tasty. Like a little margarita sans the alcohol. Every squirt (there's that keyword again!) reminded me of happy hour which was fun to have during the race. When my flask was finally empty, I looked at it, smiled and thought of my friend, fellow blogger and founder of Run Smiley, Kate Kift. Thanks Kate! It made my race! I now have a new race tradition.
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Sunday, July 24, 2011

Happy Trails to ME! Recap of Northern Ohio XTERRA Trail Series 8K Chapin Forest

[The Run Smiley Collective Administrators Note: This post was forwarded to us from Jennifer Caccamo.  Who managed to find fun in the longest race she has run for a while.  Her blog can be found here:]

Sunday I ran in the longest race that I have done in years! I ran in the Northern Ohio XTERRA Trail Series 8K in Chapin Forest.

I have to admit going into the race I had butterflies. I was worried about being able to complete the course. I haven't done much high mileage training. My longest run prior to this was 5.5 miles about a week ago.I was also worried about the hills. I struggled with gentle rolling hills in Rocky River which were nothing compared to what I would be facing at this race.

This was my first time to the Chapin Forest. The park was absolutely BEAUTIFUL! The rolling hills made for amazing views everywhere I turned. The weather was absolutely perfect, low 70's and no-humidity!

Parking was easy. We were able to get a spot that was literally feet from the start/finish line. The registration process was quick and the staff was super friendly. I also liked the people that were at this event. There were a number of fellow Grunt Girls there. It was nice to talk to them as they were a very calming presence for me. I am going to try to get out to more of the group training events.

My family and I also had a nice chat with another runner who was inquiring about my Vibram Five Fingers. He told me that he runs barefoot! I was so excited as there are not too may barefoot runners in this area. It was nice to talk to someone in person that actually gets barefoot/minimalist running.

The race was awesome! The first mile was a bit hilly and muddy. I admit I did speed walk up a couple of the super steep spots. However I was quickly able to regroup and get running again. I laughed when I got to a muddy spot where the trail got very narrow.  A guy came up from behind to pass me and said, "those things (referring to my shoes-Vibram Five Fingers) aren't made for the mud."

Well I beg to disagree :). The Vibrams stayed on even in the spots where the mud was very thick. I also felt like I had more traction wearing these versus regular shoes. I was very pleased with how they performed.

As I started making my way toward the third mile, I felt super strong. My legs felt great. My new Yurbuds headphones were actually staying in place and the tunes from my iPOD were keeping me pumped up. There is nothing like running to, "Welcome to the jungle" by Guns N' Roses.

The course also had me reminiscing about my high school and college cross country days. Running on that course made me feel like I was a kid again. Getting a little bit muddy was so much fun!  I had an amazing time.

At about 3.5 miles I ate my Chocolate Outrage Gu packet.

I only had about half of the packet because I could tell my stomach was a little bit out of sorts. The GU provided me a huge mid-race energy boost. By the time I got to the fifth mile I wasn't nearly as fatigued as I anticipated. I even was able to pass 4 people I had been trailing for the whole race.

I looked down at my Garmin and noticed the finish was really close. When I emerged out of the woods my husband was there with our boys in Bob. My husband knew how badly I wanted to hit a certain time in this race. He shouted to me, "look at the clock." I did and about started to cry. I was under 60 minutes! He then let our oldest out of the stroller and he helped run me into the finish. My final time was 59:48. I have kept that time in my Garmin since Sunday. Just a little proud of myself. I set a goal and hit it! OH YEA!

The post race festivities were wonderful. There were plenty of good things to eat and drink. I was SUPER excited to see a Muscle Milkrefreshment station there. I became a fan of Muscle Milk after the LULA 5K. This time I got their chocolate flavor.

As you can tell, I love all things chocolate! Like the strawberry flavor the chocolate was very refreshing.

I would highly recommend this race series to everyone. I will definitely be signing up for more races in the series soon.

Friday, July 22, 2011

6 Reasons Why You Should Never Run Smiley

As a blogger, I understand the importance of providing something useful to my readers. I don’t want my contribution to the blogosphere to be merely an exercise in self indulgence. So I’ve always tried to balance the “the-legs-were-tight-today-as-I-ran-my-favorite-5-mile-loop-in-my-tech-shirt-and-ultra-minimalist-shoes” posts with something interesting, or useful, or amusing. Hopefully I succeed in some small way once in a while.

One example of this was a pair of posts (here and here) that I published a while back in which I attempted to warn runners about the dangers of running barefoot. In total I provided 13 convincing reasons why you should NEVER run barefoot. I had a lot of good feedback from these posts which made it all worthwhile.

So it is in the same spirit that I bring you the 6 Reasons Why You Should Never Run Smiley. I have been reading a lot lately about some people that say that they have learned to run and have fun at the same time. I see this as a real danger to the running population and will be doing my part to try to root out this evil before it gets too far. So if you run into (not literally) one of these people and they try to convince you that running smiley is a good thing I hope that you will consider the following carefully before you head out on your next run with anything but a scowl.

Reason One – What will people think?

Think about it. You’re running down the street, or sidewalk, or trail, perhaps even the dreadmill. You have a silly grin on your face. You’re sweating and breathing rapidly. It doesn’t really matter what else you’re wearing. Tech shirt or cotton. ASICS, minimal, or barefoot. Kilt, shorts, or skirt. Compression sleeve and/or RoadID and/or Garmin and/or MP3 Player. That smile is what people will notice. It will be out of place. Oxymoronish. Sesame Street “one of these things just doesn’t belong here” kind of unusual.

Everyone knows that running isn’t fun. It’s painful. It’s hard. It’s boring. Yes, it’s necessary for some. To lose weight. To train for races. To stay in shape. But it’s nothing to smile about. So what will they think? It can’t be good. Silly. Crazy. Out of touch with your feelings. Masochistic. The heat has gotten to you. Who knows?

Can you really risk this? Will your ego be able to handle the pressure of wondering what conclusion they will come to? I highly recommend you think twice.

Reason Two – Don’t You Want a Full Body Workout?

All (or most) runners understand the importance of exercises that strengthen more than just the lower body. The core, and even upper body muscles are important for running efficiently and minimizing the chances for injury. And you barefooters out there understand the importance of engaging all of those muscles in your feet that shoes tend to shunt. So we must all realize that in the same way a full facial workout is just as important.

Everyone knows that it takes more muscles to frown than to smile. If your mother didn’t teach you that she should have. Now I understand that some have challenged this old saying. They think that it’s not true. But can you really take the chance? Think of those frown-enabling muscles! Even if there are fewer of them than their smile-inducing friends, can you afford to NOT have them toned and strong? I thought not. So no matter what, you must spend at least a portion of your run with a full scowl. Only in this way will you fully exercise your face and minimize the chance of injury to said mug.

Reason 3 – You Might Give Away Your Secret

As someone observes you running smiley they will wonder if you have some kind of secret reason for that joyful countenance. Now some days you might not have any reason, other than your perceived joy of running and enjoying your surroundings. However, I’ve been reading that many of these smiley runners have after run plans that involve things like big meals, tasty beverages (including the adult kind), etc. Sometimes a lot of these beverages. And food. And friendship.

Now do you really want people watching you run to figure this out? They might follow you. They might crash your after run activities. Drink your adult beverages. I will say no more.

Reason 4 – Someone Might Talk To You

As you run by, or as you pass or are passed by someone else running, they will likely be more apt to say something to you. Ask you a question about your smile. Strike up a conversation. Now while some might think that is a good thing I say it must be avoided at all costs. Socializing while running is a very risky activity.

You might have to slow down or speed up, or even stop to talk to the person. This change in movement might cause you to stumble or slip. You might strain something. It will mess up your heart rate training. Take your attention away from counting your cadence. Think of all the stamina you will lose due to these interruptions. Putting on your best grimace will greatly reduce the probability of these unwanted social encounters.

Reason 5 – You Might Do Something Crazy

There have been some really bad cases of this Running Smiley stuff that should be pointed out as a deterrent to any considering this incredibly risky activity.

Some have described having a desire to run through mud. Some have actually been so happy they have stripped naked and run through Amish Country. Some have run barefoot through cemeteries. These are bad enough, but there is one case that deserves special discussion. We will call this patient JR, so as to be careful about the HIPAA laws.

JR actually enjoys his running so much that he and his wife (we’ll call her SR) have decided to quit their jobs, sell almost all their possessions, buy an RV, and head out on the road with their whole family. They have very little idea where they are going, how long they’ll do this, or whether they really will like doing it. Can you imagine? All this because they love to run.

JR not only smiles when he runs a few miles but he recently ran 100 miles and he seemed to be smiling in every photo I’ve seen from the event.

Now I know JR is an extreme case. But have you ever heard of a slippery slope? If you crack a little smile on your next run it could be the start of something you might regret for the rest of your life. Maybe you won’t go on the road in an RV or streak through a graveyard, but who knows, you might start your own running blog. You guys might end up buying a kilt. You might start reading poetry about running, and barefooting. You might develop an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder that involves watching “ Chariots of Fire” and reading “Born to Run” over and over and over again. I beg you. Don’t let these things happen to you.

Reason 6 – They Might Try It

Finally, and perhaps the most important reason why you must NEVER run smiley, is simply because someone might see you and try it themselves. Do you really want to carry that guilt on your shoulders for the rest of your days? Do you really want to be the one that spawns the next “JR”? Could you stand the shame? Could you?

OK. Good. I didn’t think so. So wipe that stupid grin off your face and get out there and grind out a few agonizing miles. And say a little prayer for JR and his family.

I need idea's people!

Has anyone got any cool idea's they would like The Collective to do?  Is there anything you would like to see on the site?  We have a few idea's, some of which we may be launching in the next couple of weeks.

Also, I am currently going under the moniker "The Run Smiley Collective Administrator".  Frankly typing that first thing in the morning before coffee, OR late at night after wine is a pain in the *cough*.. well, you know.  So what cool title could I go under?  Any funny job titles would be appreciated.  Please keep it clean (ish) and something to reflect my general awesomeness.  Okay, yeah, fine! Point taken - just keep it clean... ;)

Joyfully, Not a Joiner

[The Run Smiley Collective Administrators Note:  This post was sent to us from Ren.  Her blog can be found here:]

After hitting the wall this weekend, I have been crawling over the internet for some inspiration. I discovered that the Barefoot Runners Society has a Norwegian chapter whose introduction is in English, no doubt as a means to further serve its apparent purpose:

"You are also special. You are a tougher breed of barefooter*."

In my head, what follows next is a Tarzan yell and chest beating.

I haven't switched to minimalist shoes and barefoot beach runs to prove what a bad ass I am. I gave birth.


I am already a bad ass.

I run because I enjoy it. I enjoy running barefoot on the beach. But I enjoy running the lake trails without having to worry about cuts or infections or breaking my gritted teeth while struggling over stretches of sharp gravel.

Pete Larson has written a great plea for moderation in regard to the barefoot/minimalist debate. What puzzles me is how often the question of speed comes up in the shoe/no shoe debate. I could certainly jump higher with spring-loaded shoes. It doesn't mean my body wasn't designed to jump at all. We are designed to jump and run - and to do a million other physical activities. None to the exclusion of others, so compromise is part of the evolutionary equation. We aren't gazelle.

I have always thought it was amusing that some swimmers shave the hair off their bodies to glide through the water better. It helps them win races, I suppose. It makes them better swimmers. They move faster. But it doesn't make them better at swimming.

I am not a competitive runner. I think there is a difference between being a better runner and running better.

When I am looking for inspiration I need to hit the restart button. Why did I start running again in the first place?

Also from Larson's Runblogger, where he shows how his son joyfully runs with the technique he strives for:

The less I think about it, the more I enjoy it. Mindful running isn't about my technique.

How the marathon fits into this?

... Well... the less I think about it, the more I enjoy it.
(*update: I was walking around the lake today after my swim, and thinking about the horrible swans - how they are the only thing I have to fear here in Norway. No venomous spiders or snakes. No polar bears or alligators. The only thing barefoot runners in Norway need to watch out for is stinging nettle and rutting elk. Talk about a lot of bravado for nothing.)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Some Good Dirt

Last week we had a huge rainstorm. I mean hail coming down and cracking windows, but the good thing is it made for lovely barefoot running!

The dirt road around the perimeter was turned into a child's play ground. Hopping through puddles, slugging through thick mud, or sometimes just feeling cool dirt beneath my feet.  Nothing compares to this.

When I got home my feet were full of nice brown earth and I proceeded to tell my teenage daughter how much fun it was. She just looked at me with a strange face.  We have been so stuffed with put on your shoe syndrome that something as therapeutic as mud on our feet seems strange.  What has happened?

 I remember loving being barefoot at a kid with the grass beneath me. Now it's rare to see a child without a highly supportive shoe on and even more rare for an adult.  That run was nothing but pure joy!

Keep spreading the word.. Tell everyone to RUN SMILEY!

Another View About Town

Work was making me grumpy because I wasn't getting a chance to go out and run. I informed my husband that despite chores, weather or breakfast requests from the kids, I was going to go running in the morning.

I had that moment of panic where I hadn't run in a week or so and would I still be able to do it? I had to rely on the old teachings given to me from a million experienced runners. Just go out for a mile and chances are it'll turn into more.

It was completely true. When I hit that 3/4 of a mile turn either back home or into town, I was ready to go for a whole lot more. The tingling asphalt promised me an invigorating run. I was working hard but feeling great. No longer could I feel the panic of losing my runners edge. You might even say I was smiling!

I took one of my old boring routes so the view isn't all that refreshing. The run was all the refreshment I needed. On my way back home, I came up on the block housing my favorite church in town. It's the kind of church that a little girl can imagine a fairy tale wedding in. I was taking in every detail when I realized I could stop, take a picture and share another view of my town with the runners. Not every view in town is refreshing but I can still appreciate the views I've got.