Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Observations About Cold Weather Running

I went out yesterday for a 12 mile run. It was 39 degrees when I started, not bad, my feet warmed up naturally and felt nice, even while I was running through some soggy, swampy wet grass in a park at about mile 6. Then on the way back I could feel the temperature dropped quickly, and about mile 9 it started to snow/sleet and the street got covered with slush. That's when my feet started getting numb. I thought No Problem! I'll just keep running with good form and my feel will just take care of themselves! Right?

After my run I noticed that each of my big toes had blood blisters on them, my left one is also very sore to the touch. Why would they be sore? The rest of my feet were in pretty good condition, even though I was a little worried about possibly having too much skin wear on the balls of my feet. But only my big toes seemed to have any problems.

The Role of Toes in Running

I believe that our toes help act as proprioreceptors, helping us feel the lay of the land, etc. When our feet are warm enough, the toes aren't needed as much and we can just pull them up out of the way. When our feet become numb from the cold then we instinctively start using our toes to help feel for the ground, for balance, etc. because the feet aren't feeling enough feedback. That's my theory, anyway. When the feet cannot feel the ground, the toes kick in to try to help out.

I noticed that evening and today that my feet (as well as the rest of my body) are very warm and comfortable. This supports my old theory that the feet act as thermostats for the body and help it to regulate the over-all body temperature.


Monday, November 27, 2006

Last Week's Total

Last week I only got two runs in. We've had some pretty bad wind and rain storms which didn't inspire me to get out and run much! On Monday I ran 12 miles and on Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, I ran 10.2 miles. I was disappointed on Friday's run because I thought the course I was following would pan out to be closer to 12 miles. Oh well. Time to replot my course and make it longer!

I got some Vibram 5-Fingers for my birthday and have tried them a couple of times. They will be a nice alternative for really cold days or really rough surfaces I might encounter. I now wear a hip pouch with my 5-Fingers and a water bottle in it when I run.

I'm looking forward to some good running this week - cold or not. I've decided I can't wait for winter to end, so I'm just going to jump into it and keep running anyway!

Happy trails!


Wednesday, November 22, 2006

New Course & New Personal Best Distance

I plotted out a new course last Monday using mapmyrun.com and then went out and ran it. It was a 12 miler from my work. The first and last two miles were all on nice smooth cement sidewalk. I was afraid the course might have a lot of gravel and glass since it follows an industrial use road. But it was actually fairly clear. I did most of my running on the white lane marker line (we call that the "fog-line"). The last section before the turnaround point is 1/2 mile up and back on beach sand, which was kind of nice! I even did some running in the water just for fun. The area is near a bird refuge, so there were a lot of birds flying overhead. I think they were trumpeter swans by their very distinctive sound. This run matches my furthest single distance I've run so far!

Someone asked me about my recent success in increasing my running distances & frequency. Here's what I answered:

Most recently, I have focused on keeping my feet more beneath my torso and keeping my knees bent. It was such a hard to shake, in-grained belief that I had to put my feet out in front of me to run.
I have been thinking about the angle of my shins with each step. I try to keep the angle of my shins relative to the ground as close to 90 degrees or less (when my legs go behind me) and try to never let them go more than 90 degrees (meaning I'm putting them out in front of me too much.) This has helped me a lot.

Closely associated with this exercise is knowing that I need to keep my knees bent more than I thought necessary. This forces me to automatically place my weight more towards the fore-foot, so I don't really have to think about BHB (ball-heel-ball) action.

These two things, angle of my shins and knees bent, have helped me to stop sliding and twisting of my feet against the ground, which was causing me to have skin erasure.

One other thing I have been working on is increasing my "swivel-hip" action with each step. This also seems to help align my foot as it is placed on the ground and helps eliminate friction to the skin on my feet.

So, those have been the secrets to my slight rise in success lately. I'm always working on improving things, though. As I slowly increase my distances I am also increasing my over-all conditioning. So form and conditioning go hand-in-hand, or foot-in-foot. I can't improve conditioning with bad form which limits my ability to run.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Personal Weekly Best Last Week

Last week I went out running four times and logged a total of 36 miles. That is the most barefoot miles I've run in any one week since I started running barefoot back in August, 2004! I am slowly convincing my brain to just let my body do what it should do and not try to impose its old running rules any more. I ran: Monday - 10 miles, Tuesday - 6.5 miles, Thursday - 10 miles, and Friday - 10 miles. I took Saturday off, but did find time to mow my lawn barefoot before the next rain storm moved in.

I have been playing with employing more hip rotation during my running. I believe it helps to reduce foot wear somehow. Its a pretty different way of running. I lead more with my hip of my leading leg, so I have more "swivel hips" type action. I'll keep playing with it to see if it something worth keeping up.

On one of my runs I opened up and did some faster speeds for a couple of miles. I noticed that at faster speeds, my feet kick up higher behind me, but they also place down more gently beneath me. I felt like faster speeds make the rough sections of road actually easier to negotiate! This might explain why Ken Bob Saxton says he always speeds up through rough sections to get through them faster - maybe it also makes them more gentle on the feet!

This week I probably won't match what I did last week. We have a beautiful Fall day today, sunshine, but then its going to be a lot of rain the rest of the week. It would be cool if I could find a 5K or a 10K on Thursday morning to run in.