Morning Run – New Shoes!

Previously, almost jokingly, I mentioned the possibility that I would end up getting one of the “Sportiest” looking pairs of Vibram shoes to continue on my journey of running.  To speak honestly on the appearance of shoes, when it comes to running, I don’t usually go for the wild, loud, bright sneakers; I prefer a more subdued, quiet, classic looking shoe.

… these shoes have Coral pops on them.  And a bright white stripe over the forefoot.

And I love them!  May I introduce you, dear readers, to the Vibram KomodoSport LS:

I pulled my brand-new shoes out of their box this morning, and took them for a short test run.  Conscious that there was more toe room, I was a little nervous about tripping myself with my shoe, and became cognizant of how much I was raising my toes before each foot hit the ground due to this fear.

Early morning light

Halfway through my run, I made myself push “reset” on my mind-set.  “These are no different from a traditional shoe,” I told myself when I paused to do push-ups at the park.  “You don’t need to run any differently.”

Early morning, empty park.

Once I got myself back on track, I began to notice how free the Vibram FiveFingers KomodoSport LS feels, even though it has a lot more tread on the sole than the KSO.  I was able to run un-inhibited, quick as ever, and the shoes are very comfortable.  I did learn, for some reason unexpectedly, that since the material used in this shoe is more like a traditional running shoe, the foot had less breathability than the shoe I have favored over the past year.  And, to be completely honest, since I was barefoot (I always run barefoot in my KSO’s), there was more moisture held within the shoe (yes, my feet got sweaty).  But this should not have been a surprise!  I am used to the feel of wearing a water-sock with an incredibly breathable mesh upper, so this real shoe feel caught me off guard.  I can be content with the need to get some toe-socks to fit inside my shoes.  You can find yours made by injinji or SmartWool (both found at REI).  I look forward to trying those both out!  I have never owned a pair of toe-socks, and it appears my time has come.

Overall, if you are interested in a minimalist running shoe with toes, I would recommend this shoe.  The drawcord laces are great for getting a snug fit, and the sole is constructed in such a way that you are given the tiniest bit of arch support.  I’m pleased as punch that I bit the bullet, got the shoe, and now get to explore how we will work together.

Happy running adventures!

Vibram FiveFingers KomodoSport LS in Black/Coral

Slipper Located and Acquired

Last Thursday, post 20 minute nap after a long work-day , I made my way down the stairs and out into the advancing twilight of evening for a quick run.  I strapped down the velcro tab on my Vibram KSO, picked up my toes and took off!  Half a mile later, I stopped at my local REI.  I decided to make my shoe purchase errand a short run.  (Really short).  But after half an hour of conversation with a very helpful sales associate, I didn’t even know which shoe I wanted to try on my foot.  I decided to run home, the long way (a two-mile run still didn’t seem like much), and try another day.  I was pleased to see that I kept a rather swift pace up, this late in the evening, arriving home to see sub 8’10” average pace.

Saturday finally rolled around and my day was stacked with activities.  The morning run, a trip to the farmer’s market, go find a spiralizer (to make spiral zucchini “noodles” for a wheat and grain-free pasta dish.  I found Helen’s Spiral Slicer on sale at Kitchen Kaboodle), and do various other home-keeping tasks.  I had no time to get new shoes.  Therefore, after a wholesome breakfast of gluten-free granola, coconut milk, a banana, some frozen blackberries, and a cup of coffee (and time for the meal to settle), I once again strapped on the KSO’s and went for my morning run.  I ran my favorite loop, down around the waterfront.  It was such a beautiful day!

 

The cooler morning air, bright sunshine, swimming geese, and multitude of other runners kept me motivated and moving at a quick clip.  When I finished my route, hit the “End Workout” button on my Nike+ App, I was rewarded with the female voice letting me know I had completed four miles at an average pace of 8’15″/mile.  I cut 45 seconds per mile off my run wearing the KSO’s rather than a traditional tennis shoe.

That did it.  SOLD.

My next shoe will be a Vibram toe-shoe.  I am now a believer.  Evidence points to the fact that I move faster, and with more ease, wearing these shoes than any other conventional running shoe I have tried.  I decided to look into the shoes with some extra tread for the probability of rain soon to come, and the option of trail running and sparing my soles the pain they would otherwise endure on the small rocks and tree toes that are scattered across most of our trails.

Tonight, I went back to REI (they have quite an array of minimalist shoes), told the sales associate exactly what I was looking for, tried three different pairs, and came home with one. They have a little more room than the previous pair.  Admittedly, I went up a size. It was brought to my attention that I have been wearing one size, or possibly two sizes, too small in this shoe. With the intention of committing to longer runs, and possibly wearing wool toe-socks this winter to keep my feet warm, the extra space provided is rather logical.  We always go up a size for running shoes anyway, why not with a minimalist toe-shoe?  When I first purchased the Vibram KSO I was directed that it should really fit the foot snugly.  I now understand this instruction makes sense if you are boating, or possibly rock climbing, in these shoes, as the close fit will assist you.  But be advised, if you’re going to use your Vibrams to run, the feet swell, and buying a size up as you would for traditional running shoe purchases is smart. Your feet will thank you later.

Tomorrow morning, my new shoes and I are going to get acquainted.  I’ll let you know how the run goes, and whether the shoes pass muster!

Happy running!

Cinderella & Shoe Choices

Evening run hilltop view.

Nearly two months into my journey of becoming a runner, I find myself in need of new shoes.  Not unlike Cinderella, I have an old pair of shoes I always wear: 2-year-old Vibram KSO‘s that I love and are perform reliably well every time I get outside.  In fact, tonight I was able to go out for a brisk run, concentrating on my form and turnover, and managed to run 1.75 miles with nearly an 8 minute/mile pace.  This is the fastest I have run… possibly ever.  These shoes have helped guide me to keep my bodyweight centered over my feet, avoid heel strike, and shorten my stride.  Needless to say, I am struggling with the idea of replacing them, yet I am well aware the rainy season is soon to come over the horizon in multitudes of clouds and torrential downpours, and these shoes have so little tread, I tend to slip on wet surfaces (especially running downhill – and I deal with hills on a daily basis). So, I’m wondering if you, my fellow runners, readers, and bloggers, might have some advice to give if you’ve been assimilated into the “minimalist” running movement, and are enjoying your new-found foot freedom, as I am.

The important attributes I’m looking for in a shoe include:

  • Super lightweight sole (I’m used to the Vibrams – and I really like that barefoot feeling).
  • Enough room in the toe-box for my foot to spread out (my feet are a little on the wide side).
  • A minimal sole, with good tread.

I’ve been encouraged toward the Brooks Pure Grit which looks amazing, but it might be a little narrow for my foot.  I’m really curious how the Vibram BIKILA runs; I was able to try one on today, but the fabric in the upper feels more restrictive than my KSO.  Again, I’m looking for more traction to reduce slippage on wet concrete as well as protect my feet when I run on more rough terrain (rocky trails).  As far as the Vibram brand goes, I may end up trying out the most sporty looking shoe they have, the KOMODOSPORT LS, but I am not particularly fond of the toggle and drawcord system for tightening.  I am surprised by the aesthetic of these barefoot shoes with toes; the tend to blend in with the traditional running shoes on the wall!

One last option I’m considering is Merrell.  After their line of barefoot shoes recently hit the market, a buzz started, and I’m curious to try them out.  Has anyone given the Barefoot Train Lithe Glove a try?

Now, I’m not half as barefoot as Cinderella was after her fancy ball, but I do feel unbalanced and wary considering whether to go back to the traditional tried and true running shoe of old (pre-minimal), or to move forward into the shiny new sporty shoe with toes, and see how my feet, legs, and body respond to distance running in such a bare-bones shoe.  I intend to increase my mileage throughout the rest of 2012, and keep on running through Winter snows and Spring showers of next year, so a shoe investment is definitely in order.

Do you have any other “barefoot” shoe suggestions for me?  What is your favorite shoe for distance running?

Thanks for your input in advance, and happy running!

Becoming Me

As I rose early this morning to meet my Aunt in another part of town to run, I found myself in doubt.  I had agreed to help her, as she is new to running, and coach her on the all-important form and stride; I really wanted to help my wonderful Aunt get out on the right foot and have those notes of wisdom from an experienced runner to help her prevent any possible injury she may incur solely from something simple like form.

But as I made my way out the door into the misty morning, I found myself asking critical questions of my ability:
– Do I really know what I am talking about?
– Am I really qualified to give this advice?
– What if I tell her something that is not true and causes her to develop bad habits?
… and finally,
– Why am I doubting myself?  What am I really afraid of?

I have been running for over fourteen years.  Until this year, it was not an habitual practice, and I think that is the focal point from which my doubt originates.  I have it in my mind that only those who run frequently and with some kind of schedule are “real” runners.  In contrast, I like to sing, and have performed in public, but do not have a band nor do I have any repeating gigs or schedule, yet I do call myself a singer.  Why do I have trouble claiming runner?

When I pushed the “Publish” button on my last post, I have to admit I was a little shy.  That may very well have been the first time I claimed the title and called myself a runner, really believing it to be true.  I’m sure coaching my Aunt and advising my friends will only help me to grow, and identify myself as a runner.

This year, my 30th in life, has led me through a great deal of self-exploration and change; learning about those things which are important to me, and making the choice to pursue activities that I am passionate about.  I love to run.  I love to sing.  This is who I am.

Thanks to all of you out there, my friends and family, who believe in me.  🙂

I am a Runner

After two days of rest to prevent injury after possibly over-doing it, I decided I was ready to run again.  Last Saturday, I enthusiastically and joyfully went running in my barefoot shoe of choice, the Vibram KSO, and may have stressed my calves out a wee bit.  But this morning, it was a delightfully cool near 60 degrees and I decided I would go out for a run, and really go for speed.  For this, I wore a shoe with some sole.  🙂

For me, going for a morning run has always meant waking up 15 minutes before heading out the door.  I’ll drink some water, get dressed, grab my phone and keys, shoe-up, and head out the front door of my apartment complex at a steady jog.  Recently, I experienced some Achilles pain, and while lamenting my woes to a fellow (more experienced) runner, I was advised to allow my legs a warm-up.  Walk for five minutes, then start to run.  Since implementing this practice over my last two outings, and I have noticed a huge difference!  My legs do not get that tight, unhappy feeling when I first start out on the pavement.  This five-minute warm-up is now a part of the daily run routine.

Needless to say, when my five minutes of walking were up, I felt good.  I spontaneously decided to run a different route, and that I would run the first mile (which later became 10 minutes rather than a mile) as fast as I could, comfortably.  Pushing a little, but still breathing regularly and not needing to stop to recoup.  After the first half mile, I came to an intersection that was more congested with locals heading out to their jobs in their cars, and as I was slowing to stop for a car to cross in front of me, the driver kindly waved me across.  As he continued on his way, he rolled down his window and proclaimed “Nice stride!”  A broad smile crossed my face, and I turned to wave, hollering back, “Thank you!”

There is nothing so encouraging as having a stranger offer up a positive comment while running.  During this first leg of my run, I was concentrating on my gait: keeping my turnover quick, and stride shorter because I know this keeps my pace at a nice clip.  Before I encountered this gentleman, I had actually been pondering running, as we are like to do while practicing the sport, and noticing that I felt different.  I felt my legs moving in a way that until that moment, I had only observed seasoned runners with lean legs and an unfailing stride demonstrate.  I suddenly realized I felt like a runner.  During this revelation, a passerby noticed, and affirmed that what I felt was truly visible.

I have been running off and on for about thirteen years, and something has finally shifted within me to be able to claim “runner” for myself.  I am willing to push myself to the point of some discomfort, whereas in years past, I would only jog if it was easy; not daring to push myself past that invisible wall, afraid of encountering potential pain.  Perhaps, after a year of some pretty extreme ups and downs, and moments of leaps in personal growth, I am finally able to bear pain due to moderate stress because it no longer causes anxiety; I am finally comfortable breaching that line which leads to the unfamiliar.  I am, of course, still conscientious of the fact that there are limits to the body, and I will not knowingly do something that I think will hurt me (and make me unable to run for an extended period of time).

I am simply willing to test my limits and be comfortable with being uncomfortable.  I want to work on improving my mile pace, my stride, increasing turnover, and to continue really feeling like a runner.

Because I am.

Barefoot running: Vibram KSO

Summer Fun

Today I’m taking time away from running writing.  This blog is my avenue for expressing all the joys and interesting things I learn and do that make me happy (which often involves running).  But today, it’s about family, relaxing, and… Berries!

I have always been a fan of blackberries.  When I was growing up, my Dad’s family would all go to the coast and hang out together at “the Cabin”.  Not more than a quarter-mile down the main road, was a gravel side-road lined with a huge hedge of blackberry bushes.  My Grandma would send “the cousins” (my sister and I, and all the other four girl cousins) out on a walk with a few large Tupperware to get blackberries so she could make cobbler for dessert after dinner.  I always loved that cobbler…

So, this evening, I spent time with a different set of grandparents, and when G-ma said we were going to pick berries, those old memories came flooding back.  This time, we walked further, my cousins didn’t join us, and we weren’t at the salty-air beach, but it was a perfect evening.  Pleasantly nice and warm, and the breeze picked up making the journey quite enjoyable.  Quality time for girl talk with G-ma along our route, picking berries mindlessly, and laughing as cars drove by, the driver honking or cat-calling.  Thank you, gentleman.  Glad to know we’re a nice looking pair.

Aren’t we cute? 🙂

We’re not making cobbler tonight (turn the oven on when it’s 90 degrees out? No, thank you!), but I did learn from G-ma how to freeze berries properly!

If you want to have berries to munch, but like them frozen, and really don’t want to have them become a large clump-berry-cube, the trick is to lay them out on a cookie sheet, spread with space between each berry, so they freeze singularly.  This makes them much more easy to handle as a refreshing, frozen snack on these ninety-plus degree days.  You may layer the berries with a sheet of foil or wax paper in-between to keep each layer separate if you have a bucketful to freeze.  Once frozen, you can put them in a container of your choosing for more manageable storage.

Read to freeze!

My berries are washed and in the freezer… Can wait to pop one of those frozen beauties into my mouth tomorrow!  Happy Summer berry-picking!

Habits

I have effectively given myself a reason to work out daily. Although this resolution is new, I intend to stick with my intent, and no coffee will be consumed until a workout is completed.

The past month, post 22 days of running, has been an interesting observation of how running consistently, and then allowing myself to back off, affects my body, my sleep patterns, and my thought processes. I have noticed that it takes longer to feel tired at night, but I also feel sleepy throughout the day when I do not get a run in the morning. My mind wanders more, I have less focus, and I feel a lack of rest overall.

The most surprising affect of lack of running has been an increase in leg cramping. I always attribute those mid-calf spasms that take my breath away to an increase in mileage, or lack of proper stretching. In recent days, it would seem that it is simply due to lack of activity because as soon as I got back out and gave my legs a shake, the charlie-horse stopped waking me up early in the morning.

From this experience, I gather my body likes being active. So, in an effort to prevent breath-taking pain, I will give it the exercise it craves.

Other positive side effects noted include:

Clear mind.
Tired by 10pm.
Feeling good.
Inability to stop smiling.

And I got to treat myself to coffee and brunch this morning. 🙂

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The weekend is off to a great start!

The morning run

This morning I made a decision. I will not buy coffee unless I have done my morning workout. I know some of you are shaking your heads, rolling your eyes, or even laughing at me. Coffee may be a small thing to some, but for me, the ritual of saying hello to the barista and doing our polite, and fun, “how is your life today” dance has become a well integrated part of my adult existence. This interaction is perhaps even more important to me than the caffeinated beverage. I enjoy connecting with people. I also enjoy a warm coffee in hand as I ride public transit to work.

And if I know myself at all, this small resolution will be enough to get me up early enough to put my shoes on and hit the pavement every day.

Which is exactly what I want to do.

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