Monday, December 28, 2009

Snow Traction Update

Traction in the snow on steep trails (One I run climes 1000 feet in 1.5 miles) is a challenge. There is (at least) one dilemma for the minimalist runner: how to get enough traction while not weighing down the foot or hindering it's function.

The bottom line:

  • I run in most situations in my double soled primal mocs. This includes in well crystalized snow up and down on moderately packed snow. More on this later.

  • When I absolutely need additional, I now use Stableicers Lite. Why? Because they are the only traction device I've found that doesn't constrict my foot through the minimalist footwear. I use velcro straps over the top to help hold them on (they slip off otherwise). 

Here's more details:

R and D with a solo moccasin maker in the Christmas season slows way down because he's filling Christmas orders! We're working on a possible wire and leather traction solution, but it remains in the pre-prototype stage for being too successful. Grin. Shameless plug: Chuck is great to work with and I highly recommend him if you are ready for a fantastic, quality, custom sized primal moc you can resole and will last forever. Connect with him at Mountain People Footwear.

I much prefer the leather sole to a rubber one (like Vibram's Cherry). Why? With proper primal running technique traction equals rubber soled shoes, yet is warmer, provides better ground feel, and allows the exchange of energy with the earth. Exchange of energy with the Earth? Isn't that a bit wacko? Possibly. But I experience it. I feel much more energized running with leather sole on any surface, but particularly on trails. The closest thing to a "scientific" explanation is that running barefoot or with leather allows for the exchange of energy/electrons with the earth, in which we release waste energy through the soles of our feet and receive renewed energy from the earth. I've tried multiple testing of this and, whatever the explanation, I simply feel better running with a leather sole.

Winter is hard on leather soles. Replenish them with Obenauf's Heavy Duty LP.

Snow type does make a difference. Like any shift in terrain, the type and temperature of the snow we run on makes a difference in terms of how we interact with it. As any skier using waxed skis knows, there are different waxes for different types and temperatures of snow. For leather soled folk, the wetter (ie, warmer) the snow, the less friction it has. Snow is slippery when wet. Increased traction is required on wet snow. On well crystalized snow (ie, temps 25F and below), I've found very few circumstances requiring additional traction (again using proper primal techniques (as a refresher: primal is the style/technique/experience of running or walking either barefoot or minimalist).

Running a winding, rocky trail downhill in primal footwear is mind altering delight. The concept/ technique for it is this: small, rapid steps that take you on the edge of the traction/friction equation. In essence, you run as close to the point of slipping as you can, but because your feet are moving so fast you have a LOT of traction when and as you need it. It's amazing how our feet and legs are made for this (the same is true of any steep/rocky terrain) -- our mind only has to decide the track of our travel, our feet and reflexes take care of the rest (I suspect this requires a lot of time learning the technique and building up the right muscle groups, but Wow! is it a fun payoff!). So, while the Stableicers are functional, and at this point the best I've found, they greatly hinder primal running an so the search continues. Hopefully our own research for a primal moc traction device will yield some results.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Playing on the Lone Mountain

Pike's Peak as seen from N. Catamount this majestic morn.

There is no Smaug here (reference to J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Hobbit", as well as a true statement), but seeing Pike's Peak at predawn it always reminds me of what the Lone Mountain from Tolkien's adventure may have felt like in winter.

On this, the Feast of the Holy Family, may all lone mountains know they are part of a family, and may we who are blessed with an abundance of family remember it is through humble love and sacrifice that families have strength.

Plus 8 miles (plus milage adjustment for math errors)
Total Mileage: 355.8

Saturday, December 26, 2009

All Down Hill From Here

Rock formations in Red Rock's Canyon, adjacent to Garden of the Gods.

Today was an experiment to see several things.

First, do my new ear plugs allow me to run on a fairly busy road (if any road can be considered busy at 5am)? Answer: Yes.

Second, how do I do running along a fairly busy road? Answer: not nearly as well as on a trail. Yes, the noise. Yes I have to be constantly aware of traffic. But more than that, car exhaust gets to me. My brain is sensitive to a all types of sensory input and smell of exhaust is bad. This got me in particular as I approached Manitou, where some sort of inversion seems fairly common.

Conclusion: I really have no desire to continue running on any but the small back road to Cascade from Green Mountain Falls. For Christmas, I got a new pair of stretchy Stableicers that seem to work with my primal mocs (not constricting my foot, as do the other similar traction tools. Hopefully I can run the trails more now with these, as I'm really hankering for a good trail rather than road.

Plus 13.5 miles
Total Milage: 336.3

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas Eve!

Christmas Eve Dawn under the arches of Holy Rosary Chapel.

Crisping air reveals,
my empty manger awaits,
Jesus Christ is born!

A very merry Christmas to you and your loved ones. May the warmth of this season fill your personal manger, revealing Christ born among us!

Love and blessings,

Plus 8
Total Miles: 322.8

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Run Cut Short

Och! I daftly helped my daughter put the angel atop the tree before my run. Fortunately, though I'd planned an 8 mile run, I wasn't feeling well so I turned around. I ended up barely able to make it all the way back, completing only 3 of 8 miles. It is amazing how subtle the brain fade is, before it rapidly descends.

Plus 3 miles (and 1.5 additional from yesterday)
Total Milage: 314.8

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Plus 8

Holy Rosary Chapel under a thin grey dawn.
I continue to be amazed by how contemplative road runs are now with my ear plugs (not to mention the rest of life's sound bombardment being much less taxing on my wimpy noggin!).

Plus 8 miles
Total milage: 310.3

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Waiting in the midst of Advent Preparations...

Days like this seem doubly hard. My brain is recovering from trying a new supplement -- one that didn't help my brain chemistry. So I'm here tucked into my "hobbit hole" sanctuary, hearing the distant joyous giggles and trompings of our lassies and my wife in their work to help the Christ Child and Saint Nick prepare for Christ's Mass.

Times like this weigh heavy. The burden leads to feeling sorry for myself. And that's when I remember the gift of prayer -- the prayer of thanksgiving. Take a deep breath. In. Hold. Out. Keep breathing deep and slow. Think of three things that are gifts in my life, right now. It almost seems too easily done. I hear three of them jingling through to my sanctuary. The tremendous gifts they give of loving and caring for me, despite all my short-comings. Thinking of three triggers a cascade of other blessings. Once I reach three, there is a plethora. Our home, our friends, our faith community, all the help people give us, our wee town, trails right out our front door, a rich abundance of food, a multitude of recent "baby steps" of progress...

Thank you God, for the rich abundance you give me. Help me use that abundance to help build the manger into which you are born to dwell among us -- Emmanuel.

The simple act of giving thanks transforms my fundamental attitude. Yes, the road is the same, long hard one, but somehow it is easier, richer, and smoother for keeping my eyes on the gifts rather than dwelling on the pain.

Merry and blessed Advent!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Our Foot is sturdy as an 3 flexible arches interlinked.

Arches at Holy Rosary Catholic Chapel, Chipita Park, CO.

God made our feet to be pinnacles of structural and functional engineering. Any cushioned shoe with a raised heal and/or upturned toe gets in the way of this beautiful design, hindering it, and forcing our bodies to work around it as if we're injured 9and indeed, we aften are because of these monstrosities on our feet, though we and the whole world too often blame running instead of the shoes). Here's the engineering marvel known as your foot.

We have a windlass mechanism which not only absorbs shock when we land on our forefoot, it actually stores and returns up to 18% of that energy to us in the form of propulsion. Run in cushioned shoes with a heel and you have to land heel first, completely negating this God given gift and abusing the heel and knees in the process. Some respond "but I NEED my cushion to run." Yes. You do. But you only have 1-2" of cushion when you run. I have about 30" of cushion if I need it. How? My knees bend however much they need to when my heel kisses the ground. The more weight on my heel, the more my knee bends. Usually this is only a few inches, but coming off a hill, it can be a lot more, though I've never maxed it out. (Tip o' the hat to Barefoot Ken Bob for this wonderful analogy!)

Our metatarsals (the bones behind our toes), form a flexible arch from behind our big toe to behind our little toe. This arch is meant to collapse, absorbing and dispersing the shock of running when we land our our forefoot or midfoot. Wear shoes that aren't wide enough in the ball of the foot, or run with a heel strike, and you don't get the benefit of this incredible arch.

Finally, our foot is made to pronate inward so our foot flattens out into the arch (What?! Isn't that a bad thing? The shoe companies would like you to think so). This helps dissipate shock and load the windlass mechanism. A healthy foot has a strong, flexable, supple arch and bone structure and moves in all kinds of ways you never knew about if your feet are trapped inside their cushioned prisons. Wear shoes with arch support and your arches become weak and aren't allowed to function as they were made.

In running, as in all things, God made us very good. Our challenge is to learn how we're made (and the world around us), how it works, and then what, if anything, we can or should do to co-create with God from there. Sick of trying to make your feet in Nike's image? Free them!

Plus 8 miles
Total Milage: 297.8

Monday, December 14, 2009

Hail, Full of Grace!

Our Lady of the Woods, at Holy Rosary Chapel, amidst the dawn from on high.

Plus 11 miles
Total milage: 289.8

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Plus 7

Plus 7 miles
Total milage: 278.8

Friday, December 11, 2009

Why I run barefoot/primal (minimalist)

Photo: Catamount waterfalls at the Hondo bridge.

A good friend asked me why I run in primal mocs and barefoot when I can (which isn't often, as I need it 60 degrees or warmer, live at 8,000 feet and run in the pre-dawn to early morning). Also, I sometimes get comments from people who see what I'm running in like "How can you RUN in THOSE?" Interestingly, I can only run because of them. Here's why:

I have constant neurological vertigo, which offers me two axes of motion simultaneously, all the time, without exception. As a result, my brain has no idea which way up is. The only way to compensate for it is to "fly by instrument" -- like a plane on a foggy night. So I use two heavy walking sticks which help tell my brain which way up is (yup, I run with them).

Going barefoot, or as close to it as I can get, helps in several ways:
Feet are "awake" (instead of asleep inside padded cells, er shoes), and thus provide a lot more usable information about where I have relative to the ground and gravity.
Most of these messages don't travel to my brain, muttling it's already limited capacity with an overload of   information to process. Instead, most of the feed back from my feet travels directly to the muscles of my feet, ankles, calves, thighs, hamstrings, glutes, back, and elsewhere triggering reflex responses to keep me upright. My brain doesn't have to know which way up is, because my feet and muscles are smarter than it when it comes to gravity.
Previously, when I could only walk, I lumbered along, intentionally falling from step to step, stick to stick. Yeah, I got good, and could hike for miles, but it exhausted me and my brain. Now, because reflexes mostly handle the positional awareness, my brain is ironically doing less work even though I'm running and accomplishing more.
Barefoot technique, in short is travel as tall and upright as possible while making as little sound as possible. Why? Because upright we're more efficient, an the less sound we make the more gently we are touching the ground and the more efficient each step is. There's a lot more to it (like short quick steps on the fore or mid-foot, no heel strikes, rapid cadence (180-230 steps/ min.). The end result is that running barefoot style energized my mind, body and soul, vs, walking the old way which took a toll on me. No longer are my back and shoulders all knotted up from lumbering about on my sticks. Yes, I still use them, but they are more to give my upper body gravity reference than the legs of Frankenstein's monster. Grin.

Plus 6.2 miles
Total milage: 271.8

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Snow Runner

The colors of winter pre-dawn are amazing. glowing purplish, pinkish, and red. With winter hue that's hard to describe, but only present when it's cold. Crisp, clear, yet muted glowing dusty all together.

It's wondrously fun (play with abandon kind of fun) to run feeling the different textures of snow through the thin leather soles of my primal mocs. From powder then "melts" straight through to the ground below, to the crusty surface of wind-blown snow that crumples and caves to powder below, to trafic packed snow and lumpy foot packed snow, and slick packed snow. Delecious, triamphant fun at 2F with mighty winds! Grin.

Plus 3.2 miles
Total milage: 265.6

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Cold Weather Running

Todays run was a bit over 3 miles in -10F, (-30s with windchill). I wore my primal mocs (double leather sole) and a thin pair of merino wool work socks. The bottoms of my feet felt slightly cool, but they stayed stable and very happy. The tops and toes were warm and cozy.

Plus 3.2 miles
Total Milage: 262.4

Monday, December 7, 2009

Sheer Joy of Running in Crisp Powder!

Wow! Today's run was -2F and it was sheer delight. To feel the snow crunch under my foot trough my extra layer of skin (primal mocs) while being toasty warm with only a thin wool business type sock on was amazing. Some barefoot purists out there may say you'd get more feel of the experience with nothing on you're feet. Possibly. For the first two minutes. Grin.

Plus 4.2 miles
Total Mileage: 259.2

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Happy St. Nicholas Day!

Here in the highlands of Colorado it's a perfect day for waking up to shoes put out the night before and discovering that the grand, holy elf reverse looted us, leaving chocolate gold coins and a few wee toys (can't remember what the lassies got! Grin.).

Plus 3.4 miles
Total Mileage: 255.0

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Plus 3

Primal mocs are working out wonderfully - the leather sole grips a lot more than I expected in snow -- until the snow is packed and/or icy. Working to design a pair of winter traction "sandals" to strap on for use in slippery situations -- then these will be the only footwear I need, no matter what I'm doing. Well, this or barefoot, but that comes standard).

For temperature, the primal mocs worked great at 0F with thin wool socks. They even breathed so well and are so comfortable, I'm still wearing them.

Plus 3.5 miles
Total milage: 252.6

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Plus 6.9

A grand crisp run in 10 degrees F!

Plus 6.9 miles
Total: 250.1

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Running solo, with company!

My brother, who lives in Oklahoma, has joined me in counting his miles. Welcome! He put in 40 last month.

Today's run was plus 3
Total miles: 243.2