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Weights, Running Barefoot, and Rock Climbing in Cabo

April 3, 2009

cabo-4-1-09-633

After the day off from running yesterday, I woke up with the sunrise and headed out to the weight room before the run. They have some really cool cable machines I have never seen before and I really love the versatility they give you for working out. You can do it all at three stations and everything is so smooth and accurate I will miss them a ton they are really hard to be beat.

I was a bit tentative about heading out for a run after my last experience, so I headed to the front gate and stashed my shoes and shirt and started out. I have felt a little out of breath when starting lately and I believe it is due to the humidity and most of the run is up hill in the beginning. I was wondering how my feet would feel after the all of the miles I have put on them around Todos Santos sightseeing. I just focused on being slow on the terrain while maintaining a gentle step. I passed the workers again this morning and I still get the same look, big white gringo with no shoes, no shirt and no tan. I rounded the corner and everything is going well, the feet are warming up nicely and I can see this is going to be a nice run.

There really is no comparison between a good barefoot run and a good run with shoes. I felt free running along in the palm trees on the rocky asphalt. I could have never have run on a surface like this a month ago. I felt like I hit a milestone being able to run like I did this morning, I really did not want to turn around, but I did not want to push it too far and pay the consequences either. About face, and back the way I came the dreaded out and back. I rounded the corner back into the villa and came to the gate when everything was feeling good. My mind was questioning my choice to stop so early. After much trial and error I have concluded it’s better to stop early than pay the price of over exuberance with injury. They have flat skipping stones on their sides that are in concrete in big long strips. I was reluctant to try running on them when we arrived and walking on them was a challenge. This morning I was able to run on them with very light feet jumping the bulkhead at the end of the trail to finish off. My speed picked up with the fun I was having and I was at a full sprint by the time I made it to the room. Wow what a run! It was a great challenge as well as great fun.

Patti and I finished off the day with some light bouldering on the weathered sea granite rocks next to the Sea of Cortez. We had done some rock climbing out at Lands End by the arch the previous year and hauling all of the gear down was a little troublesome. We decided to use the Five Fingers this year for bouldering and scrambling around, a lot easier than hauling all of the gear, much lighter too. The rock climbing really works the feet and is great exercise for all of the muscle groups. The mind gets a workout too with the surf crashing into the rocks below, if you don’t watch your step, one could be bounced off the rocks and swirled around in the surf. I suppose the risk is part of all the fun and to some the activity of rock climbing may seem extreme. I’m not surprised we like it and the surroundings today are unmatched!

The feet and body are changing! When I put footwear on my body does not like it and I actually feel some discomfort. This is an interesting development that I will continue to monitor. Adios.

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More Barefoot in Baja

April 1, 2009

cabo-4-1-09-151Beach run in Todos Santos

Up with the sun again this morning and it is just beautiful. I could really ease into this lifestyle of no work, waking up to the sound of the waves, with palm trees in the wind. This is great training weather and I will not miss a day if I have anything to say about it.

I had to put some shoes on today to run my feet are still a little sensitive after yesterdays extended workout. I’m glad I have made it past thinking I was failing if I put on a pair of shoes to run when my feet are still recovering. Running for me is about having fun and not some screwed up ritual that has to be performed. When I run like it’s a chore the joy is gone, having fun like being a kid just vanishes, and that’s what it is about. So, move over ego were putting on the shoes today and were having fun!

The diet here has been a little hit and miss, the chocolate cake that we picked up at Costco was a hit! Yeah, you get the picture see food diet, no holds barred; if it looks good eat it. There is only one problem when I fall into this pattern and it’s not the extra calories stacking up. My body has a special way of thanking me for all that good looking food coming down the chute. The guys working in my lower GI track are saying, “Oh I see, that’s the way you want to play well you’re going to pay.” I will say this right now what I consumed the day before is going to play out in my run today and if you can’t take a little poop talk then you better just surf on to YouTube or something because things are going to get a little interesting from here on out.

If you are still here there is something that you should know about me and it’s really a pain in the butt. I am not the kind of guy that wakes up and his first move is into the bathroom to take care of his business if you get my drift. I am one of the abnormal people on this planet that has to work at getting the plumbing working. If things don’t go off well in the morning then all bets are off and I can almost count on being in some sort of compromising position when nature calls. Just so you can appreciate what I am saying here I’ll give you a small example. I was climbing Mt. Rainier and when we headed for the summit that morning I knew things were going to be bad because the morning business didn’t go as planned. At 13,700 feet it was time, yep, TIME! I had my two climbing partners on the rope with me and I was leading 3 other rope teams. Harness down, pants down, 10 degrees, balls dangling in the wind with ice pellets flying by. (Use your imagination and yes ice pellets do hurt when that happens.) To fight it would have been futile because I know this is how I am. Go now or pay is the way it works and this can happen any time any place when my diet get off track. I love food and that is the curse and just to show me who is really boss the boys in the lower GI let me have it again coming down the mountain at the same spot. At least this time the ice pellets had stopped flying and we were headed down. That’s the way I work and now that you know, well, this was some foreshadowing for today’s run.

The scenery is stunning here and it makes running really fun with lots to take in. The morning business did not go well and when I left the villa I knew thing could be bad, but I just thought I would deal with it. I have the same talk every time, Oh I’ll make it, yeah right! Nothing gets stuff moving like going for a run and by mile two it was time, yes TIME! I had been gliding along and all of a sudden even the most beautiful place in the world makes no difference as all focus goes to finding the spot. You know the spot, quite possibly the most important place on the planet at that point in time and all scruples go out the window when selecting that all important spot. I spotted a construction site to my left and I stopped to survey the area for the illusive, endangered Porta Potti. With my razor sharp hunting skill I zeroed in on the plastic blue oasis with no trouble and headed that way. There was a Mexican worker standing close by and I looked at him and said, “Banyo!” His reply was a quick, “Si.” He must have seen the look on my face and realized I was not a man that was going to take no for an answer. The door slammed shut and I was faced with my next dilemma. You guessed it, no toilet paper, what the fuck!!!! So close to nirvana and yet one step away. Sometimes you have to compromise with life and this would be the case today. Shit your pants trying to make the futile journey home or improvise, I chose to improvise and McGiver would have been proud. I won’t go into detail, but use your imagination and remember the pool of resources was limited. You have a pair of running shorts, socks, two shoes and you must come out with everything you started with. Good luck and have fun, I did, let me rephrase that, I had a good laugh at the situation. Never lose you sense of humor in a shitty situation a good laugh will carry you through the rough spots!

Now that all that was over with I sprang from the Mexican shit box like Clark Kent from his phone both complete with the big “s” on my chest. I rocketed by the nice caballero that gave me my free pass to almost nirvana and yelled, “Mucho gracias amigo!” Needless to say the rest of the run was quite nice and who couldn’t have a smile on their face after that adventure was behind them. Tomorrow will be a weight day at the gym with some walking. I am heading up to Todo Santos for some exploration and the usual stop at the Hotel California it’s such a lovely place, but I won’t be checking in! Adios muchachos!

Barefoot in Mexico

March 30, 2009

cabo-3-29-09-006Gritty sidewalk

Cabos San Lucas running barefoot 3-30-2009

It is great to be in some warmer weather for a change of pace. The Sun was just peeking up and the waves crashing into the beach was lure enough to get me out of bed after a long travel day yesterday. It just feels like one should be up early running around playing and I can lay around later after I take care of the body and mind.

All of the different surfaces here are really quite the experience for the feet. I have no clue where to run or what to expect, but I have gained confidence that I can move over just about any surface that I could face. This is a good thing because running here would take all the skills I had.

I started off the run on the beach in front and did not last too long. The sand is ankle deep and very course with chunks of coral. The sand felt really good massaging the arches of my feet and is a great way to give the bottoms a quick exfoliation. The sand is good for a change but I think it does little for working on the running form. So, I headed up to the stairs which had some nice running sections between flights. I was still right by the beach and the texture was like 80 grit sandpaper. I ran up and down and up and down doing some sprints while alternating form work in. After about 20 minutes I transitioned back to the beach and finished with more sprints on the grass. There is nothing like grass after working on very tough surfaces. Pure joy describes it and you go from Volkswagen to Ferrari with the increased speed and comfort.

Patti and I went back to the villa and had just missed Judi out for a walk. We took off out the door and tried to catch up. I wanted some more barefoot running and I got it. Out to the main road and the asphalt is best described as…rocks. This stuff is mean and it tested me to my limits. Trying to land softly is a must and I was quite surprised I could run on this stuff. This was by far some of the most challenging terrain I have encountered for asphalt. You could call it chip seal, but chip seal is chips and this stuff was small rocks. Running on the crushed rock trail at home still has it beat because of how sharp the rocks are. Enough of my whining, on we went as I danced the dance looking for the smooth spots and running in the gutter was pretty good at least it was smoother.

As you could guess running in the gutter is probably not that safe and you would be right. I keep a close eye on the road when cruising along and sometimes the pokies are just too small to see. I was greeted with what felt like a sharp rock and that is normal for barefoot. I just keep going and it will drop off in a couple of steps, but this was not the case this time it kept hanging on. Just like a flat tire on the freeway during rush hour, you don’t want to pull over and stop, but you know if you don’t you might end up on the five o’clock news in flames saying, “I don’t know what happened it just burst into flames!” Yeah right buddy here’s your ticket for being a moron. So, I pulled over and put my foot up on the jack and gave it a look. Hmmm, not good, not good at all this is a first. I had stepped on a small little spring that was broken and of course the pointy end was stuck in the ball of my foot. “Shit!” I thought of all the countries to step on a piece of nasty steel well, let’s try and pull it out. I seemed like it was corkscrewed into my foot so I worked on it a while and it finally let go with fight. I was not sure that it did not just break off and there was a little blood to add to the sinking feeling. Poke, poke, prod, squish, hmmm it feels like I got it. Oh well, no more pain and I’ll be dammed if I’m heading for the ER here I would probably have to bargain for my services, I’ll take my chances and see how it goes on with the show.

We never did catch Judi and my feet were telling me time for a siesta gringo, so we headed back to the villa. The injury never really bothered me and the run was a great learning experience and reinforcement to the progression of the feet and form. I covered terrain that was a challenge and the looks I got from the locals were priceless. “What happened to your shoes amigo?” I just smiled and said, “I had to sell them to get to Mexico.” “Really, would you like to buy some new ones?” I must be loco, but what the hell, I’m having fun running in the spring stepping on springs in Baja. Adios amigos!

Getting back to the fun in the run!

March 21, 2009


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After training barefoot for almost two months the Mercer Island half marathon had arrived. I had battled cold weather, numb feet, and a chronic ankle injury during my training. I really wanted to run the marathon barefoot and I believe adding that pressure was the cause of me pushing my barefoot ability too far. The end result was the ankle injury that took away from training time and this left me questioning my ability to run without further injury.

How does an athlete come to the conclusion that the dreams they have had and the goals they have set might have to wait for another day? From the outside people may think the answer is simple, but in my mind it is far from simple process. My goals are fueled by pride and ego, two driving forces that have the ability to override common sense making the decision process anything but rational. My ego would rather risk injury than let a goal go unachieved and pride will mortgage the future for the spotlight today.

The thought of putting on a pair of racing flats for the first time in a couple of months for a shakedown run seemed like a failure, almost like my barefoot status would be taken away from me. I had started this all for the joy of running, the joy of feeling connected to earth barefoot, and that had all been consumed by pride and ego. I was actually worried about what people would think if I put on shoes to run. I was way off track and I wanted to get back to the humble beginnings of my barefoot journey. Those times were absent of expectations and the only goal was to have fun and learn to run like we were intended.

I had not run more than twelve miles in a week for the last month and I had decided to put on my shoes and go for a run to see how my ankle would feel. I was able to run without aggravating it and I still had thoughts about going barefoot Sunday morning. I would make it a decision to be made on race day even though deep down I had already given up on going barefoot. For some reason holding on to that last bit of hope gave me some comfort in coming to grips with my decision. Just reading this makes me laugh, you would think I was in the Olympics or something! Welcome to my world!

Race day had come and I packed my Five Fingers and racing flats into my bag and headed out the door barefoot. The weather was cold and wet making my decision not to run barefoot an easy one. I decided to make it about having fun and not risking injury. My plan was to run slow for the first half, work on my form, enjoy the people, and run my butt off at the end if I felt up to it. When I put the shoes on I was back on track, that dose of humility that I was not ready to run barefoot was like magic. The fear melted away and I realized that the only person that was concerned was me. I was free to run and have fun again and it didn’t matter if I had shoes on or not. The gun went off in the cold rain and I was happy to be there going for a run with bunch of nuts on Sunday morning. Nuts you say? We have to be nuts. Who else would pay to go for a run in the rain on a cold Sunday morning?

The first couple of miles most people go out pretty fast and this was no exception. I kept pace on my watch and slowed my pace within the second mile and settled in to an easy run at conversation pace with Tom. My body was feeling great and my ankle was perfect gliding along with little effort. The miles just rolled by and before I knew it I was at mile six in about 62 minutes. I felt really relaxed and I decided to shift gears and see if I could stay relaxed while running a quicker pace. Even though I was not running barefoot the training was paying off with a much improved form and efficiency. I was gliding along passing people who had passed me in the first six miles and it felt so fun. The miles continued to click off and I would look down at my watch and figure when I might finish. Wow I had never run this fast before could I keep it up? I was able to keep it up and I finished the final 7 miles in about 41 minutes and that was quite a feeling. Success would sum it up quite nicely.

Another great lesson in the journey of life, I had won in my mind and I felt at peace knowing I had made the right decision. I felt great, my ankle didn’t hurt, and I received a gift that was unexpected. I ran faster than I ever have before and it was in surrendering that led me to the freedom of running for fun. The journey continues!

Some time off was the key

March 16, 2009

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As you might know I have been battling my right ankle for a while and I was fed up. I decided to rest it after Thursday’s adventure and I had to strap myself down to make sure I would not sneak out for a little run. I sat still for three long days and I am much better because of it. My swelling has dissipated and the pain is gone. It feels pretty strong and that is very promising. I was beginning to think that this was going to last forever.

There has been 40 inches of new snow the last 48 hours and not heading up today was really hard. I decided that I would give it one more day before I hit it full steam ahead. The skiing should be just as good Tuesday and I think I will live. P90X will have to do today for some sort of exercise.

I worked chest and back today and did the Ab Ripper X. I love these workouts they make me feel great and the produce great results. Get your tickets for the gun show!! After I finished up with the workout I went home and picked up Medea and headed off to the Lake Sammamish area to let her run in the fields. I just headed out with her barefoot and had no plans of running because I am resting….ooops I should have known better maybe just a little to test things out. It felt great to run down the trail and I even ramped it up to a sprint a couple of times. Everything felt good and I left it at that. I spent most of the time walking and the temp was just about 40 degrees. The pads were a touch numb and I spent some time walking on crushed rock and some aggregate with little trouble. The soles felt good and seem to be progressing well. Everything was wet today and the mud and the deep puddles were fun to walk through and it always helps me feel connected with nature.

The weather is looking wet and cold for the MI half and I might be doing the whole thing in Five Fingers and that is a bummer. Oh well, that is still 6 days away and I will cross that bridge when I get to it.

The comment of the day was,” I can’t believe you go around barefoot in this weather.”  I can see her point of view and I am glad I don’t share it! Have fun out there and don’t forget to have some fun. You’re supposed too!

Snow, Ice and Five Fingers Oh My!

March 12, 2009


five-finger-snow-and-ice-hike-3-12-2009-001 At home at last!                                                                                                          Photo by: Patti

Not all journeys go as planned. In fact, they can go from a simple journey to an all out adventure. When this happens all bets are off and anything is possible. One thing is for sure, it will test your resourcefulness and your ability to keep a smile on your face.

Today I was going to take the day off running because my ankle is sore and it worked in perfectly with my outdoor club’s 18th birthday hike to the summit of Tiger Mountain. The weather was about 50 degrees all day and I thought a nice barefoot hike to the summit would be a great cross training activity. I love to hike barefoot and again I brought my FFF’s(Five Finger Flows) for backup. When I made my way to the trailhead there was snow all the way to the bottom. I felt really bad that I was not going to be able to go barefoot hiking today. I put on my FFF’s and took off for the summit and within the first 100 yards I realized this was going to be no ordinary hike. The trail was covered in a compact snow and ice. I had zero traction! I had to pick each step carefully and there were times I was on all fours trying to go up hill. I had scratched, clawed, crawled, pulled on branches, walked on fern branches, and used a branch for a walking stick to make it to the halfway point. I started having thoughts of turning around and having worries about what the trip down might be like. I could see the trail I have come up turning into a toboggan ride to hell.

I have learned many lessons during my alpine adventures. One of the most important is when I start having negative thoughts of how bad a situation can get I must change my thinking right away. Positive thinking and a little laugh about the situation at hand always leads to some sort of resolution with some fun in the challenge. Take away the fun and that little chuckle with the, “how the hell did I get into this one?” and you might as well dig your grave right now because things will get worse. Bad attitude will attract bad results and I have experienced it first hand with Patti as my witness. We laugh about the Mt. Baker Boulder Route adventure now, but trust me I wasn’t laughing at it then. My attitude continued to decline and things got worse, much worse. Oh, just a little word of advice. When you are at your wits end and you think about looking into the sky and screaming, “Bring it on God!” Resist this urge with all of your might because few are prepared for what happens next!

Back to standing in the middle of this mountain with freezing toes and the fresh thought of trying to get down from here I begin to switch my thinking. I think to myself how can this be fun? How can I make it to the summit party? What would Bear Grills do? That was the switch from the negative to the positive. Find a solution and have fun. I grabbed some fern branches and tried to tie them around the FFF’s for added traction up the snow. I had to laugh and even though this was not the solution it was fun giving it a try and it lead to the next idea. Cedar limbs tied to the soles could work. They are much more durable and they gave good traction when I walked on them. This was a viable solution and I would have used them, but I am running out of time and if something were to go wrong in my decent I was not well prepared for a night out in below freezing temperatures. I felt sad that I would miss the party and I really wanted to get up there, but I knew at this pace I should concede. I turned back and started my downhill slide and passed some friends going up. We talked for a bit and then I continued on finding that going down was not as bad as I had pictured. Great balance and core work. Two more friends were on their way up and we stopped to talk and one of them had a spare set of small Yak Traks. Yak Traks are slip over the shoe traction devices. What the heck I thought give them a try. They fit on my FFF’s! They gave me traction! I could go up hill! I turned around and headed to the summit and I made it just as the party started. I was very happy to be there and I hoped the journey down would be much easier.

Now that I am at the summit my attention turns to my numb toes. FFF’s do not really give much in the way of insulation when your feet are on the snow and ice. At the very least you need to keep your feet moving to keep them off the snow preserving as much warmth as possible. I had brought some down booties with me this time after my experience on my last cold weather barefoot hike. My last experience putting on the FFF’s on numb feet that were damp made me apprehensive when taking them off to put on the down booties, but at this point I will deal with that challenge when I get there. I pulled off my FF’s and put on the booties and about ten minutes later I could feel my big toes coming back to life. Ah, the feeling of warm feet at this point was a real treat. I put my FF’s under my butt to sit on the cold log and insulate me from further heat loss. This worked well and it also heated up the FF’s for when it was time to put them back on for the trip back down. Putting on the FFF’s this time was not bad at all. This I think was due to the FF’s being wet at the toes and this worked like a lubricant on the skin and getting them on was much less work. Another lesson learned for the future.

The journey down was going well for a while until the Yak Traks broke on my left foot and then the right. Going down was a superb workout and challenging. Daylight was long gone and my headlamp lit the way. Going down in these slippery conditions make you work to find your balance and keep your weight forward. This is great training and could have many benefits for barefoot runners conditioning ligaments and tendons that don’t get much work on flat surfaces. The lower half of the trail is very steep and it took all I had to keep off my backside and keep from shooting off the trail into the rocks and trees. I remained focused on the trip down and when my mind did wander I was gently reminded to pay attention or else. Approaching the trail head I felt a sense of relief along with the new found knowledge that I would not be repeating that again, EVER!

I had made it out safe, but sound? The definition of “sound” depends on the individual and this little adventure might qualify on the side of lunacy. One guy I passed on my way up would have most likely called me a lunatic. He was coming down in his climbing boots with a set of crampons on the bottoms and the look on his face said it all. For the record he wasn’t the only one with that look on his face today there were plenty of others too. I admit it not one of my most shinning accomplishments, but it was an accomplishment none the less. I had fun, I laughed, I learned and I hope you did too.

I will close with this comment for the day:

When I started this journey I had no Idea how I was going to make it to the top I just thought I could. Positive thinking brings positive results and good things will unfold beyond your control. If you have fun and laugh along the way chances are your life will be richer because of it.

Ramping it up with some chip seal

March 11, 2009

barefoot-running-march-11-09-006 Burke Gillman Trail  with Medea                                                                                                  Photo by: Patti

Feeling much better today and my thoughts are to push up my mileage to see what the future may hold for my first barefoot half  marathon. I came to a number of six plus miles and that just about doubles my normal mileage that I have been doing regularly. I realize that this is not a slow and easy upgrade and there may be some consequences to this decision. I am ready to live with the results because in ten days I will be running over 13 miles and I would at least like to prepare the best I can in the short time that is left.

Patti, Medea and I started the run on the Burke Gillman Trail and the surface was to be a surprise and it sure was. The fist 3 miles was rough asphalt and chip seal and this was quite the experience. My feet knew they were alive and the gait altered to compensate. A slower pace for starters and I really had to work to relax. It was a difficult warm up for the right ankle and it took about a mile to settle in. The nice thing about running on such a stimulating surface is getting off of it. The next three smoother surface miles were pure joy. Gliding along working on hip placement, speeding up, and slowing down. It felt nice and I could run a long time on this surface, but that little voice in the back of my mind was saying,” You know we have to run back that way!”  What can I say? The voice was right the second time through that section was more stimulating than the first and staying relaxed and in good form was difficult. When the relaxation goes things tense up and get overworked and this is when the trauma  occurs . I can feel everything, my feet, my ankle, even the snot running down my nose onto my lip that I didn’t bother to wipe because  the fire that started at my feet and ended in my head had my complete attention.  This is not a good space to be in for a long period of time and the sensation is telling  me to slow down take it easy the feet are not ready yet, the body is not ready yet, slow down, relax or suffer the consequences.

Thanks to that  little push from the ego today the feet are sensitive and the ankle is sore from the new surface and the extended miles.  The skin faired well with no blisters or tears. This was a first, I had a small rock embedded in my heel at the turn around that my wife was able to remove with some work. It was just like the elephant with the thorn and the mouse that pulled it out. I professed my gratitude  and said,”If I can ever be of help please call on me I am forever indebted to you.”  She just laughed and smiled. That look on her face and the smile was the blue ribbon today. Thanks Patti your time is the greatest gift of all.

Fear is the only real challenge in my mind. There are as many types of fear, pride and ego are the ones that are driving me right now. I believe that fear is a cancer and left untreated it will try to eliminate all fun and love. My challenge is to accept my fear and rise above it and treat it with love. Love conquers fear always and that is that. In this situation I must let go of the outcome and love the journey or I will loose no matter how great the outcome.  I feel better and more centered just saying that. I  have fun and I do my best.  When I run for fun and leave out personal achievement it is always fun and freeing. When I add in the other stuff running is just a common chore or dreaded task. I need to question myself, why run a race? Is it for achievement or for fun? This race was entered for an achievement, but it will be finished only for fun.

I will  leave off with this comment for today. Forest Gump was asked, “why are you running across america?” His answer, “I just felt like running.” That sums it all up the purest form of running is just running because it’s fun. There is no reason, no personal best, and no blue ribbon the prize is in the journey and if you are missing that you may be lost.