R. to the U.N…?

Every once in awhile the stars align. As soon as the baby eats and there’s someone to take over the duties of upright-baby-holder-{reflux}/baby-cry-stopper/baby-putter-to-sleeper, I can get outside for the most glorious event in the world.

A run.

vibrams running shoes

There’s always laundry to be done, dishes to be washed, showers to be taken and work to be done, but when the aforementioned events occur about once every 2 weeks, you take advantage of them.

The year before I got pregnant I injured my knee doing what I loved to do: running. After a year of rehab, I was just starting to be able to get back into running when I found out I was expecting. Although I’d always pictured myself running while pregnant, I knew it wasn’t going to happen. I didn’t think twice about trading my runs for walks.

34 weeks pregnant

Pregnancy is notorious for messing with your joints and ligaments and I’d heard horror stories about what pregnancy can potentially do to your IT band. There was no way I was adding fuel to the fire that was my injury- I’d rather hang up my running shoes for another 9 or so months rather than risk permanent injury.

My entire pregnancy was loaded with statements like “if I can run again” and “we’ll see if I can run”. I questioned and wondered and hoped that my knee would make it through and I could pick up running again. I did what I could to keep my knee in good shape while I was on a running hiatus- squats, lunges, foam rolling, and stretching.

running gear

And now its time to see what will happen this time around as I lace up my sneakers and hit the pavement for the first time in almost a year.

6 Things To Consider Before Running in Vibrams

8 months after I injured my IT band during a race, I started easing back into running using Vibrams barefoot running shoes.

Things were going fairly well, but then I ran a 5K in old running shoes- it was a mud run, and I didn’t want to ruin my good shoes. The results of the race? Not so great on the knee. But did I blame training in the Vibrams? No way! I’ve since continued using them, and hate to put on a pair of regular shoes.

muddy running shoes from mud run

Barefoot or minimalist running isn’t for everyone, but I think they can be a great training tool. Here’s some things to consider before heading out on your next run barefoot:

1. Not everybody was built for barefoot running. {When I say barefoot in this post I also mean minimalist.} As my physical therapist pointed out, some people are built to run ultramarathons, others just aren’t. It’s the same for minimalist running- some people have the right feet and alignment for it; others will just get it injured.

2. Start slow. Really slow. I’ll say the word slow again just to make sure you read it. Running in Vibrams or other minimalist shoes is completely different than running in regular shoes. Running shoes are built up, structured, and cushioned- minimalist shoes obviously are not. This changes the entire way you run, from how your foot hits the ground, to how your legs absorb the impact, and how your hips rotate.

You may be able to whip out a double digit run with no problem, but when you’re easing into Vibrams, start with a walk. Work up to a mile. Alternate wearing your Vibrams and regular running shoes. Slowly build up your mileage in the Vibrams.

vibrams fivefingers barefoot running shoes

3. You don’t have to run long distances in them. Say you’re one of the people that just aren’t built to run barefoot. That doesn’t mean you can’t use them at all- Vibrams are a great training tool for anybody. Running strides in Vibrams or barefoot is a great way to train your body to run with the proper alignment and to help build different muscles.

I will probably never run races or even a lot of miles in mine, but I will continue to use them as a training tool. I do my daily walks in them now so I’ll still be used to them if when I can start running again.

4. It might hurt. Even though you’re doing the same basic running motion, taking the cushioning of a running shoe out of the equation changes things drastically. Your lower calves will probably hurt at first. Make sure you know the difference between sore and pain- if you feel pain, stop before you get seriously injured.

5. Pick the right shoes. Vibrams are pretty popular, but that doesn’t mean it’s the shoe you have to chose. Most running shoe companies have come out with a minimalist shoe now- they look more like running shoes than the crazy feet-shaped Vibrams, but they don’t have all the structure and cushioning that normally accompanies a running shoe.

Try Newtons, Saucony’s Kinvara or Hattori, Nike Frees, Merrells, or New Balance’s Minimus.

minimalist running shoes

6. Finally, make of this what you want, but remember that barefoot running isn’t a new thing– the barefoot running craze goes in and out of fashion every 10 years or so. This time around more of the shoe companies have jumped on the bandwagon though. So make of it what you want, and make sure you make the decision because it’s right for you, not because it’s popular.

 

Have you tried Vibrams or other minimalist shoes? What do you think about the barefoot running craze?

 

P.S.: Read about my experiences with prenatal yoga– it’s not what I thought it would be!

To Shoe or Not to Shoe?

After I got injured running last June, I found myself with some free time on my hands. I couldn’t run, so I started reading about running instead. {Self-torture much?} I picked up the infamous “Born to Run” book, and was immediately enraptured with all things barefoot running, pinole and chia seeds.

born to run barefoot running

In fact, if you’ve read Born to Run and didn’t walk away completely enthralled by these things, I’m guessing you didn’t really read the book. Winking smile

You can read more about the barefoot running book here, but one of the main takeaways is that this group of ultrarunners run 100s of miles in tiny thin sandals that might as well make them running barefoot, and they never get injured. Perhaps this stuck out to me more as I was sitting on the couch with a bum knee, but I think the idea would have appealed to me regardless.

runners knee

At the time I was in physical therapy for my knee. Since I had a professional at my disposable, I chewed his ear off with questions. It wasn’t hard to tell he was pretty much over the whole barefoot running and Vibrams thing; the number of injuries he’d seen had gone up drastically due to the popularity of Vibrams.

So I pushed the idea out of my head thinking it was just another passing fad and didn’t have much merit. Then one day early last spring, the husband and I were outside doing yard work. I, of course, was barefoot, as I almost always am.

I wasn’t paying much attention when suddenly I heard the husband yell out. I looked up with just enough time to see him running towards me… with a dead rat. Yes, a rat. I didn’t think two seconds before I took off sprinting towards the front yard.

It was only later when the horrible, disgusting creature was far, far out of sight that I realized what had just happened. I ran. And it didn’t hurt.

Up until then, every time I tried a short run, it would end in knee pain. I was just about giving up. But then I ran across the yard without a thought. The only difference? I was barefoot.

I took the precautions of my physical therapist, but decided they only way I’d know for sure about the whole barefoot running thing was if I gave it a try myself. I got a pair of Vibrams, and set off on a walk around the neighborhood the next day.

vibrams fivefingers

It couldn’t have felt better. To me it felt completely natural- I spend so much time barefoot that these shoes just felt right. Slowly, I started to jog in them. They felt great. No knee pain. I was already a mid to forefoot runner, so running without the support of sneakers wasn’t a big deal to me.

As I worked my way up in mileage, however, the knee pain would return. The difference with the Vibrams and my regular running shoes was that the knee pain would stop as soon as I stopped running- it didn’t stick around for the next few days.

So I trained for a 5k mud run in my Vibrams. {The mud run was the perfect first race back from injury since it was on a soft surface.}

mud run 5k rugged maniac

If you were reading back then, you might remember my knee didn’t fair well after that race.

So did I blame the Vibrams?

Find out tomorrow. Winking smile

 


Pssst. We finished painting the nursery! Go check it out and tell me what you think. Winking smile

Hood to Coast

Once anybody runs their first race, they suddenly start secretly dreaming of all the major races they want to accomplish. You may have just run your first 5K, but that doesn’t stop you from envisioning crossing the finish line of your first marathon. Even if you don’t tell anybody, or even start training for it, it’s in the back of your mind somewhere.

My currently-pipe-dreams-but-one-day-hopefully-reality races?

1. An Ironman

2. A Ragnar Relay

Now neither one of them needs to be that brand- any Ironman-distance triathlon or any long distance running relay works for me.

A few weeks ago I watched the Hood to Coast documentary, and now you can add that right next to Ragnar on my list. Who wouldn’t want to run from the top of a mountain all the way to the beach?

hood-to-coast mt hood

Relays are my all time favorite races to run. Hood to Coast is a relay on steroids; it’s also the largest in the world: 12,600 people in teams of 8-12 run 200 miles broken into 36 legs from Mt. Hood to Seaside on the Pacific coast.

hood to coast course map

If you’re thinking “that must take days!” you’re right- teams ride along the course in vans while one person runs at a time. Hopefully they can get some sleep, but chances aren’t high.

The Hood to Coast movie gives you a little bit of a glimpse of what the whole thing’s about. It follows four teams through the race; each with very different experiences.

One of the teams, the Dead Jocks, has some of the original Hood-to-Coasters that have run it every single year since it’s inception in 1982. They have to make sure the teammates they pick run fast enough to let them place during the race, which will give them automatic entry to the next year’s race. Otherwise it’s up to a lottery.

There’s a team that is running for a family member they lost who loved to run, and had even run the Hood to Coast relay as a kid. It wasn’t just about running for this team- it was about remembering, honoring, and healing.

hood to coast at night

And then there was a team with a woman who had almost died on the course the year before. I believe she had a heart attack and collapsed in the middle of the race- two other runners came to her rescue and literally saved her life. She spent the year healing after a triple bypass and came back to tackle the course again with team Heart-n-Sole, this time with plans to finish it out.

hood-to-coast running realy

The last team is the one that didn’t quite sit well with me. It was a team of people that worked together that just up and decided to do the relay. Most of them weren’t runners. I appreciate that this team shows the race isn’t just for the elite or for highly accomplished runners and anyone can participate, but they pushed it to the extreme. At least two of the team members didn’t even get up to a 5k in training. Basically they didn’t train at all; they just showed up. That’s asking for injury.

They did provide a bit of comedy in the middle of some heartbreaking stories though. “I think what we should do is train as little as possible, like don’t do any training, just drink and eat and do no training, and then if we do accomplish the race, all the better.”


hood to coast movie

The movie only follows a few of the more than a thousand teams that do the race each year- everyone running for a different reason and everyone with a different running background. The length of the race –both in distance and in time- adds a whole new dimension to the high of running. Add in lack of sleep, needed to eat multiple meals, and keeping up the teamwork through stressful times, you really have quite the event on your hands.

Maybe one day. Smile

 

Here’s the trailer for the movie if you’re interested:

 

Have you ever done a long distance relay like Hood to Coast or Ragnar?

 

P.S. Check out my 25 week baby update!

{Not} Running on Empty

One of the lessons kids learn growing up is to “always look on the bright side.” It’s usually a lesson that comes at the most annoying of times, but you have to admit it’s true; sometimes you just gotta look on the bright side.

So what’s the up side of a sprained ankle? Being forced to slow down and curl with a good book about running across America.

I’d checked out Running On Empty by Marshall Ulrich from the library a few weeks ago, and finally got around to sitting down and cracking it open.

running on empty marshall ulrich

Running on Empty is “an ultramarathoner’s story of love, loss, and a record-setting run across America.”

The book recounts Marshall’s start in the world of running as an adult struck by overwhelming grief, and goes on to give a detailed account of his run across America at age 57- 3,063 miles in 52 days.

marshall ulrich

By now, Dean Karnazes seems to be a household name, but holy cow does Marshall Ulrich deserve some superhuman credit. Not only is this guy a record setting, seemingly unstoppable ultramarathoner, he’s climbed all Seven Summits, including Mt Everest; he’s completed 9 crazy insane eco-challenge races that put the idea of Survivor to shame; and as if finishing the Leadville Trail 100 and Pikes Peak Marathon isn’t badass enough, he did them in the same weekend.

marshall ulrich with team stray dogs

Sprained ankle or not, I’m starting to feel pretty darn lazy.

Although I was thoroughly impressed with this guy’s stats, the book didn’t draw me in at first. I was put off by the way he pushed away and alienated his family so he could run. I like to think one of the things that makes ultrarunners so admirable is that they find the time to train for races of unimaginable distances while still making time for daily life and their family.

But as I continued to read, the events of his run across America drew me in. His trouble with his emotions and his family made you appreciate the growth he found in himself and his relationships on his epic journey on foot.

marshall ulrich at badwater ultramarathon

The number of injuries he sustained while running more than 2 marathons per day for almost 2 months were almost uncountable. I still can’t decide if it makes me mad he ran through his injuries {a giant running no-no} or impressed that he was able to push through.

My favorite line? “Marshall keeps going forward because there’s no looking back,” said by Christopher McDougall, the author of my favorite running book Born to Run.

All in all, it’s a great book to read just to see what the human body is capable of, and to get just a little bit of insight into what goes through an ultramarathoner’s head as he runs and runs day after day.

 

If you’ve read Running on Empty, what did you think? What’s your favorite running/sports book?

Test {MUD} Run

Well, it’s D-day.

As in I’ll know if I’ll be able to do this upcoming triathlon or not.

If I can’t survive a 5K, I clearly can’t double that in a month. As much as I want to do the tri, I also want to keep my leg function. You know, working legs. Kind of a big deal.

Of course my knee has been killing me in mental anticipation…

But if I can do it….it’s ON.

 

So, here goes a race like no other. This week and last night’s rain have guaranteed the mud run will in fact be…muddy.

rugged maniac mud run track

The electronic race packet amused me. Select phrases:

rugged-maniac-course-constrrun-like-crazyno-joke-run-mud-run-coursestupid-questions

And pictures of course construction have been going up on their Facebook page….

rugged maniac course construction

And of course, my favorite line of the race packet email:

fire obstacle is on

Should be an interesting day…

 

Time to go get muddy!!!