Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Second Run this Week

I decided to go out again today. It was cooler, 39 F (3.8 C) but no wind or rain to contend with. I intended to run one of my favorite routes along the waterfront in downtown Portland, Oregon. Usually I just run one loop, which is 4 miles. This time I felt really good so I added an extra loop, winding up through the streets in the business districts. My total distance on this run was 6.2 miles. I got lots of stares. The only comment I heard was from another runner. He called out, “Hey Abebe Akila! Ghetto style!”

I get some serious inquiries about barefoot running sometimes, so I made some business-sized cards that I carry with me. Once in a while I hand one out if someone seems interested in knowing more. My cards say “Barefoot Running” with a pic of some bare footprints, my name, and the words “Natural! Fun! Healthy! Strong!” I was going to give one to the “Abebe Akila” guy, but it would have taken too long to dig one out of the plastic bag with my gloved hands.

I noticed that I could handle some gravelly sections quite well by making sure I placed my feet straight down gently with no lateral force. My ability to handle the rough stuff may have been helped by a dietary experiment I have been doing. Someone suggested adding ground flax seeds to my diet for the good oils they contain. I have been trying this for the past 3 days and I believe it makes a difference. The skin on my feet seems to be more supple without losing any toughness. The skin seems to mold itself around bumps and lumps better with less pain.

Happily running barefoot in the great Northwest!

Ryan
Vancouver, Washington

Monday, December 29, 2008

My New Years Resolution

I decided I need to keep better records of my running, so I know how far I'm running each week/month. I estimate that I have run about 2,500 miles barefoot since I began in August, 2004. This is a only an estimate.

In 2009 I'll try to keep more accurate records.

Today I ran four miles in cool, wet weather. We just got thawed out after a 10-day deep freeze with almost 18 inches of snow. I didn't do any running during that stretch -- I may be a barefoot running fool, but I'm not foolish about it!!

So today was a nice, short run to get me back into it again. I expected to find a lot more gravel on the sidewalks left over from sanding the icy streets -- but it was no worse than usual.

Still running barefoot in Vancouver, Washington
(the other Vancouver)
(the other Washington)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Listening To Our 'Youngers'

There is wisdom in listening to our elders and learning from them.
However, there is also wisdom in listening to our "youngers" sometimes.

I noticed some kids walking barefoot across a parking lot one time.
When they came to a rougher gravel-covered section, they all did some

familiar things:

Bent their knees more
Shortened their strides more
Stepped more on their forefeet than on their heels
Appeared to look past the rough area - not focusing on the immediate.


So yesterday I was running and took a trail that goes from a parking

lot down to the sandy banks of our local river. The trail was mostly
smooth and leaf-covered, very easy and pleasant! There is one section
that is rocky and rough. I have usually had to switch to a slow walk through
there and try to step only on the large, smooth rocks.

This time I remembered the example of the children and di
d the same
things they did. I was able to cross over the rough part very easily
and much more quickly, no problems at all. Something to keep in mind
for future runs.

Quite often people ask me "Where are your shoes?" I usually carry a
couple of bandaids in my pocket in case I need them (I rarely do).

One time I pulled out some bandaids, showed them to the person, and
said, "Here they are! I carry them in my pocket."

Ryan

Friday, November 14, 2008

Running in the Rain

Last Wednesday, I felt like going running all day, but it was very windy and blowing, the middle of a big storm. Once I am out in it, I usually don't mind so much; the hard part is overcoming the initial resistance to the idea of voluntarily getting soaking wet. It was not even that cold out, a balmy 62 degrees! So I was vacillating between going or not, to get wet or to stay dry.

I thought I would compromise -- go out just for a short run (or so I say to myself) which won't be so bad. Except I know that once I'm out in it and am already wet, I'll have no reason at all to keep it short. So, I asked myself, shall I go out at all, knowing I will probably make it a longer run in the end?

So I stewed over it for some time.


Anyway, I ended actually venturing out into the full-on rain storm. It was still 62 degrees F (16.6 C) out and less than an hour before sunset. I knew I would get soaking wet but I did it anyway.

It was windy, wet, wild -- and wonderful!

Yep, I did go further than I originally planned, 7.5 miles instead of 4. There were some fairly strong wind gusts, some spells of extremely heavy rain intermixed with steady, constant rain. Some deep puddles that I intentionally aimed for, especially when wet leaves were sticking to my feet and ankles.

I even saw a few other runners and bicyclists out! I passed two women, one who was wearing only a sports bra, shorts and shoes. She pointed
at my feet and exclaimed, "No shoes??" I pointed at her and said, "No
jacket??" We both laughed and continued on our way.

Today is sunny and blue skies -- not too bad running weather either!

On another note... I get asked about barefoot running so much that I broke down and bought some business card paper and made me up some Running Barefoot cards to just carry with me and hand out on runs. I don't know how they will fare in sweat and rain, so I'm looking for a plastic holder of some kind to keep them in so they stay dry.


My desert-dwelling sister was up here for a visit. She asked one day, "What's all that stuff falling out of the sky?" (joking about all our rain
versus her lack of it.)

I smiled and told her, "Around here, we call that SUNSHINE!!"


Ryan


Thursday, November 06, 2008

More on: "Is Going Barefooted Good for You?"

Someone on the Yahoo sports group, Runningbarefoot, sent me a link to another very well written and thorough article written by Joseph Froncioni on his web site,
Quickswood --- about shoes, bare feet, and injuries. Excellent material! Read it here:

Essay on Athletic Footwear and Running Injuries



Ryan
Is Going Barefoot Good for the Feet?

I got a private email from someone wondering if running barefoot was proven to be good for the feet. Here is my answer:

Hi there! I got this email from you, where you said,

"I think you guys are a little loose running barefoot. There is no proof that it is better for your feet."

My first proof is myself, but that might not convince anyone. So I did a quick web search and found these articles, linked below. There may be others I didn't discover. I suppose these come as close to 'proof' as we have right now. There is not a lot of money in proving barefoot is better; scientists get a lot more money proving that a certain shoe or an orthotic design is good so some company can sell those products!

Enjoy these, they were very helpful to me!

Article 1
Article 2
Article 3
Article 4
Article 5
Article 6
Article 7


Ryan

Thursday, October 30, 2008

National Guilt

I read on someone's web page that we can't ignore the national stain on our history because our nation practiced slavery for hundreds of years. They were saying our nation now owes the descendants of the victims of slavery reparation for the inhumane treatment and lack of justice they suffered.

That got me thinking --

Slavery was not a national problem -- it was a regional problem. I belong to the nation that DEFEATED slavery! It was the United States of America that rose up and told the Confederate South that not only could they not secede from the union, but they could no longer own slaves. It was my country that defended freedom for blacks. It was my country that destroyed the awful system of human trafficking!

It was the Republican Party that defeated slavery! Abraham Lincoln, that great defender of human rights, was a Republican.

None of my ancestors owned or condoned the practice of slavery.

So I oppose the idea that my country owes anybody any reparation for a practice that my country defeated.

I oppose the idea that the Republican Party is worse and the Democrat Party is better for blacks.

I oppose the idea that I owe anybody any reparation just because of my skin color and because of their skin color.

Even if reparation might be somehow justified, it should only be paid by those who are proved
by a high percentage to be descendants of actual slave owners, and the only ones who should receive reparation money are those who prove by a high percentage to be descendants of actual slaves.

Even those reparation payments would have to be filtered. During the slave trafficking days, it was African tribe against African tribe, blacks against blacks, who captured and sold slaves to the traffickers. If someone descended from a black slave captor, then they would owe reparation to someone who descended from a black slave captee. The reparation debt would apply not only to people living in America. There are many descendants of black slave captors still living in Africa. Many of those who received the slaves and transported them to this country were from other countries. So the ship captains and crews and their descendants would also share the guilt. Look out Dutch, French, English and Portuguese!

How ridiculous can this whole issue become? Its like the man who was trying to prove he was 25% American Indian so he could collect reparation money from the U.S. Government. Wait a minute! If he was 25% American Indian and 75% white, then three-fourths of him owes the other one fourth of him payment!

So, if someone proved they were actually descended from slaves, we would also have to see if or how much their ancestors intermarried with non-slave descendants, and adjust their reparation payments accordingly.

There is hardly a group living in this country who can't point to some injustice committed upon them or their ancestors. Besides blacks, there are American Indians, Germans, Jews, Italians, Polish, Hispanics, Japanese, Russians, and others I probably did not think of. I think by the time we all pay reparations to everyone else, we might have just about done an even swap all around.

The reparation issue is not about justice or equality. It is about preference, reverse racism, and self-interest.

Those are my thoughts on this matter.

Oh, and I am still running barefoot! and loving it!
For those who think it matters, I wear no animal products and I wear no petrochemical products when I run! How's that for environmentally friendly?

Ryan


Friday, October 03, 2008

A Letter to My Congressman:

While it appears that a financial bailout is imperative, I ask that you demand some answers before approving it:

1. Where did all the money GO and how do we make those who took it RETURN IT??
Sallie Mae, Freddy Mac, WaMu, etc. were not failing to be profitable for all these years -- it appears their profits were being siphoned (stolen) and misappropriated. Who took the money, how do we get it back so taxpayers don't have to foot the entire bail-out cost?

2. Will those responsible for the financial mess be held accountable? We expect to see a list of indictments against politicians, investors, and business leaders who truly caused this mess. You could start by making public the list of names who are responsible, and the list of names of those who wrongfully received money from these failed institutions.

I believe Barack Obama and Barney Frank will be on those lists - if so, let the chips fall where they may. We want all the evidence and all the facts to see the light of day in an open and unblinking inquiry. How come so many politicians, who are not supposed to accept gifts or bribes, suddenly end up being millionaires when their government salaries don't support it. They got their money from SOMEWHERE illegal!

3. If these are such tough financial times, why does the bailout package have so much EXTRA spending in it? Cut out the pork! If a financial bailout is necessary, let's not spend any more than is necessary. This shouldn't be a free-for-all where everybody gets a free lollipop.

4. Where did we come up with 700 billion dollars all at once? This tells me that we have been WAY OVERTAXED. Cut the taxing, cut the stupidity with money, cut the assault and the punishment on the productive citizens.

5. Wouldn't eliminating all the illegal aliens and closing our borders reclaim most, if not all, of the cost of this financial bailout? We are losing millions of dollars supporting people who are law-breakers, who do not have any right to be here, and who siphon money straight out of our economy. Correct this mess and we wouldn't mind so much having to fund this bail-out by our own sweat and labor.

Do the right thing!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Barefoot Ups and Downs

A couple of weeks ago I was walking - not running - on a sandy beach when my foot struck something hard and sharp hiding in the sand. Turns out there was some very old metal debris buried in the sand. You'd think that this being a city park and all, and this beach being visited by lots of fishermen, families with kids, etc., that someone at some time would have thought -- "You know, that old rusty, sharp metal hiding in the sand just might not be such a good idea!" and might have decided to remove it.

Well, my foot got quite a deep gouge from it. I didn't have any bandaids with me, so I let it bleed out pretty good and then rinsed it in the water. When I got back to my car I doused it with a saline-hydrogen peroxide solution I have. The skin break was not the extent of the damage. Apparently I also got quite a deep bruise and a slight sprain to my ankle. So I was limping around for quite some time after that. The skin tear has healed nicely, the bruise has eventually gotten better, and my stiff and sore ankle has now quieted down.

A couple of weekends ago my wife and I visited friends in Astoria, Oregon. One of my goals was to go on a long, easy beach run while there. We made it to the beach, the weather was absolutely gorgeous, but my foot and ankle were still too stiff and sore, so I could only manage a short 2 mile run/walk on the beach. Oh well, I'll take what I can get!

This week I have been able to get in a couple of good runs, at last. 10 miles and 8 miles each, on pavement, cement sidewalks and beach sand. Saturday my wife and I went to the river beach and dug up fresh water clams to make into clam chowder. I really enjoy wading in the mucky parts of the river as well as the clean sandy parts. Barefooting is so much more interesting than wearing sandals or even aqua socks!

Ryan

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Thinking Green

I just don't buy into the whole global warming political theory. There's no doubt that global warming is occurring; it has cycled up and down for as long as the earth has stood. My contention is that we just don't know enough about the earth's global climate to conclusively say that MANKIND is contributing to any global warming! There are tens of thousands of reputable scientists who also don't agree with the current pet theory and warning that "the earth is warming so we must DO something about it!" In fact many of the scientists who were brow-beat into signing onto the Kyoto Protocol have recanted their support of it and many have since been shunned by the politically correct body of "correct thinking" scientists.

I know the argument sounds good, that says, "But WHAT IF we could have done something about it and didn't try?" I believe the forces at work in shaping the earth's global climate are not only massive beyond our calculations, but are self-correcting. I do not believe that man-made pollution HAS any effective impact on global climate, and I also don't believe mankind COULD make any effective impact no matter how hard we may try. Not only does the global climate correct any imbalance of pollutants, no matter what their source, but it will also 'correct' any relatively puny attempts by mankind to try to steer the climate in any direction. Even our successful efforts will be short-lived and will be absorbed or adjusted according to nature's own rhythms and cycles.

Remember in the 80's when global cooling was the great fear and a global ice-age was the dire prediction? Well, nature compensated! Now the earth is warming (again) and I fully believe the earth will compensate on its own very nicely. This isn't the first time the earth has warmed up. Finland (Vinland) was once known for growing grapes and producing wines (hence 'Wine-land'), which meant it had much the same climate as present day France or even Italy! Then things cooled off a bunch, and not due to man's influence.

I live about 40 miles from an active volcano, Mt. St. Helens. When it first erupted back in the 80's, it spewed out hundreds and even thousands more tons of "pollutants" that are high on the environmental bad list, than all of mankind has or could put out for all of human history. Since its first modern eruption, it has continued to pump out even more "pollutants" every day in one long, slow-burn eruption that has lasted about 20 years. And it is just one volcano. There have been and now are many active volcanoes that daily put out far more "pollutants" than we could ever imagine putting out even if we tried to with all our effort. Nature simply rolls with the additional input, corrects for it, and rebalances itself.

My greater fear than that of a future global desert caused by mankind, is the presently very active political fear-mongering going on and the call to tax, limit, modify, and shape our lifestyles and activities in the name of protecting the environment, when (I believe) nothing we may try to do will really have any noticeable effect on the global environment at all.

So, years down the road when billions and trillions of Euros, dollars, yen, pesos, or what have you, have been senselessly wasted or extorted for private gain by those who stand in the money stream, and realizing that nothing we may have done has changed anything about the climate, will those concerned give-in and admit they were powerless to change the climate? NO!! They will cry louder and predict more dire results, and demand that we do even more to try to change the climate.

I firmly believe that there are those pushing the "green" movement and who say they are trying to save the earth, who are really using that as a front for a much more insidious agenda. I absolutely believe there are those who are using this as a means to destroy free enterprise, free will, human potential, and to impose dictatorial government systems upon people everywhere in the world. I also believe that there are many, many people who completely buy-into the fears and the face-value goals proposed by these groups, who innocently support all of their agendas in perfectly good faith, and who are just blind to the real direction the movement is taking them. A totalitarian government doesn't have to force chains around people's necks if they can be enticed to put them on voluntarily.

I believe those scientists who say that global warming is 99% caused by the sun's activities and by the amount of water in the earth's atmosphere. I won't believe mankind can effectively change the global climate until we learn how to modify the sun's output, globally change the amount of water in the atmosphere, and modify the ocean and wind currents at will. Until then, we are simply at the mercy of natural forces far greater than any influence we might exert or imagine we could exert!

Now, all that being said, I do not believe in blindly polluting our air or water. I support wise and careful stewardship over those thing that we are able to affect or influence. We do have the capability to produce chemicals that are very bad; we need to be prudent with how those are used and disposed of.

Those are my thoughts on the matter!

Ryan

Still running barefoot, just not commenting on it as much.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Relax, Relax, Relax!

Ken Bob's repeated reminder to relax, relax, relax is more than just a cliche. I think there's a reason his recommendation is usually expressed in triplet. Here's my philosophy on the meaning of "relax-relax-relax."

Relax - the Body

Shod runners are trained and practice to build up their tension-based muscles. They feel the need to be able to "push off" with tremendous force and whip their legs forward with staccato speed.

Barefoot running is a whole different mind set. We learn to relax our body, let nature take over and do the hard work. Stress, effort and tension waste energy and invite injury.

Instead of thinking about the "trying" of running, we feel the "doing." Falling to go forward. Natural loading of the built-in springs in our feet, ankles and legs. Taking shorter and quicker steps that reduce stress, impact and friction. Running from the core.

Relax - the Mind

When learning to run barefoot, there is a tendency to think, re-think, analyze, formulate, evaluate, focus, compare, and so on. The best part of barefoot running is learning to un-hook the mental processes and allow the body to learn to speak for itself. We are conditioned to fear and avoid mistakes, so we panic when trying a new thing and want to analyze the heck out of it, hoping to become pros at it immediately.

Barefoot running is much more than just doing certain movements or placing the feet just so. Its about re-growing weak muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Its about re-shaping arches and muscles. Its about quieting sensation-starved nerves that initially scream from overload when starting out going barefoot. Mental analysis does not grow new cells, experience and effort do.

Barefoot running is also about putting aside fears, prejudices, social embarassement, self-doubts, and self-limitations. We fear the pain that we will and do experience in our muscles and on our feet when starting out. We fear stepping on that rock or glass that might injure us. We hesitate and tense up when trying something new. We tell ourselves we could never ..., we will not be able to ..., its too far to ..., etc. We worry about how we will look and what others will think of us.

Little by little, however, we vanquish each fear, doubt, hesitancy, and limitation. Each step of success builds confidence to take another step forward in our progression. Rocks and glass can be avoided or can be stepped on without consequence. Yesterday's stopping point can be today's half-way point. We receive the harsh comment or word as not being given in malice, but evidence of someone's own misunderstanding and feelings of inadequacy -- and we forgive them.

Relax - the Spirit

Barefoot running begins to open up a new attitude and acceptance of life. The process is as fulfilling and important as the goal. A bad run is still good. We learn from setbacks as much or more than from success. In fact failure is only a new learning opportunity, and it is also good. We find that we are not really competing with or against others. We only compete with the self we were yesterday, we strive to achieve the self we want to be tomorrow, and we are aware of and enjoy the self we are today. Other's successes are not our failures, so we rejoice when others progress. Progress is great, whether its learning to run that first block or two without pain, or running a second marathon the very next day after the first one. We focus on "what's next?" instead of "what might have been."

---------

So, remember when running barefoot, whether you are just starting out or you are aiming for yet another ultra run - to "relax, relax, relax!"

See you "out there!"

Ryan