Thursday, November 25, 2010

Barefoot Running

So, what is the deal with barefoot running? We have all heard great things about it, but also a lot of horror stories.  There was a lot of hype in the media a year ago about the miracles associated with barefoot running: now, a year later, we are starting to see the benefits and problems associated with this activity.  The problem with jumping into something like that is that every foot and every experience is different.  Every runner has “a friend” who ran some marathon with no shoes (meaning completely barefoot), and who was perfectly fine;  or some other friend who could not run anymore, and was “cured” by barefoot running.  We all want to be like the Kenyans, but here is the difference.
Every body is different, and barefoot running is a great training tool, which must be adapted to your biomechanics.  Our foot did not evolve to run barefoot on concrete and asphalt: it evolved for the smoother and softer ground in the African savanna.  Even though some of us can train our bodies to do pretty much anything (hence the crazy uncle who can run on rocks with no shoes), we have to be careful.  Here are my tips on how to give barefoot running a try in a safe way:
1)    Before you purchase any type of barefoot shoe, try running barefoot on grass.  This will save you some money, and keep you away from harder surfaces like concrete.
2)    Try running barefoot once a week after one of your weekly runs.  Find a smooth grassy field, like one of the playing fields, and carefully inspect the area you will be running.  Then, run back and forth a few times.  Begin with 2-3 minutes and GRADUALLY work up to 10-15 minutes.  When you feel stronger, you can do it twice/week
3)    After about one month, you can start with a racing flat.  Racing flats still promote landing on the ball of the foot, but have a bit more protection than the barefoot shoes.  Use the racing flats for one of your weekly runs.  You calves might be sore for the first few runs, and that’s normal
4)    If you decide to try the barefoot shoes, I would always alternate them with normal shoes or racing flats.  The healthier way to run is to use different shoes depending on your need for that specific run.  If you’ll be running a lot of rocky, technical downhill, you might want to leave the barefoot shoes at home.  More importantly, listen to what your body is telling you, since it always knows best.
5)    With all that said, barefoot running might or might not work for you.  If it does not, don’t be discouraged: there are still lots of great ways to work on your running form that do not involve barefoot running.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Where in the world is Gill?

If you don't want to get lost in the woods and not be found for many days, there is one simple way to do it: TELL SOMEONE WHERE YOU ARE GOING.  Aron Ralston was able to capitalize on his misfortune, and good for him, but the point remains that he would have been found much sooner, if he had just told someone where he was going.
Gill and I don't live in the middle of nowhere, and it is quite hard to be lost in the Shenandoah National Park, but not impossible.  When we are not running together, we always tell each other where we are going, or we leave a written note somewhere in the car, or leave a voice message to one of our friends.
We all love the solitude and peace of running alone, and the wild feeling of knowing you are vulnerable in the woods, but none of us want to be stuck somewhere for days.  Seems poetic enough to be alone in the woods, until you have to find shelter and food and it's 30 degrees outside.  Let's not forget how quickly things can change, even by simply badly twisting an ankle.
Gill's note
Personally, I would rather go home the first night, instead of crawling my way around for days... but that's just me.

The Corbin Run

This weekend Gill, myself, Rebecca Phalen and Alyssa Godesky went for a run in the middle district of the Shenandoah National Park. We started a few miles from Skyland, a beautiful mountain resort with a great horseback riding program. The run was about 3 hours, straight down the mountain, and straight back up.

About 5 minutes into the run, we saw a very large coyote on the trail, which was totally unimpressed by our presence: we were definitely more excited to see him than he was to see us. Coyotes in this area look more like large labradors, and that's because many are coyote/wolf hybrid: I am not making this up, and actually read it on National Geographic.
The highlight of the run was definitely Corbin Cabin. George Corbin built the cabin at the beginning of the 1900, and lived there before that area was the Shenandoah National Park. Gill and I see evidence of old homesites all over the Park, from old chimneys, to stone walls, to isolated tombstones.  George's wife, Nee, died in childbirth, and is now believed to haunt the cabin and the woods.  Here is more information on the Corbin cabin.
On the way up from Nicholson Hollow (the trail where the Corbin cabin is located), we reached the Blue Ridge Parkway right below Stony Man. On the way back to the car on the Appalachian Trail, we enjoyed incredible views of the Western Valley.
The loop was technical because of all the leaves, but the climbs were intense, and I was done by the end.
I tried the new Clif gels and LOVED them: the chocolate is incredible. I am glad they changed to maltodextrin, as the gels hit my system much quicker.
George Corbin, Corbin Cabin, the coyote/wolf and the Western Valley