Showing posts with label barefoot running. Show all posts
Showing posts with label barefoot running. Show all posts

Tales of Running: The First 5 Years...1000s of Miles Later

I find it curious to be writing this post when I have had trouble running for the last two months--ever since I ran 5K and came in around 24:30.  But this post is necessary to write.  It's been five years since I first start running.  Five years since the flip switched and I went from hating running and unwilling to run even a mile to literally running thousands of miles in the last five years (between 1000 and 1200 a year).  What seemed like something that I just couldn't get has now become something I hate the idea of doing without.  Life is indeed funny like that.

Lance with finisher medal after his first marathon.
First marathon completed.
Who knew I'd be back for more!
I hope that I never lose the amazement that I feel every time I set off on a run because it, in itself, is something that is truly humbling and amazing.  Don't get me wrong, I love the feeling of my body after a good run: the muscles feeling loose but tired, the sweat dripping all over my body, the breathing bringing refreshment to my beating heart, and the sense of accomplishment for sustaining the movement for the duration of the run.  However, I still feel like a kid sometimes when I'm running; doing something forbidden or risky or strange and new.  Each time, I feel like a veil has fallen, and I'm a newborn horse moving from its stumbling initial steps into a gallop.  Silly, absolutely, but no less true.  Maybe this is why running has stuck with me so much because I continued to be awed by something that for decades of my life, I thought was something beyond me.

Coupled with the running has been a good amount of writing (just over 60 posts to date) on running; again, another thing I'd never imagine writing so much about (unless it's was like Bart Simpson on the chalkboard, "I hate running" five bajillion times).  And from that has been many an email, message, and note from people thanking me for helping them, encouraging them, or giving them food for thought as they begin or continue on their running journey.  The Bull and The Cheetah, 10 Ways Running Reminds Me of Learning, The Two Demons I Run With, and "I ran 15 miles, I got assalted, my face hurts, and it's your fault!" are by far my favorite posts that I've written about running as they highlight so much of my inner world while running and thinking about running.

As I said, I'm currently recovering from an injury--my IT band has decided it's not happy and so I'm giving it a bit of rest and seeing if that helps before slowly rebuilding myself back up or needing to see any kind of specialist.  Thus, it's been weird to hit my 5-years of running mark and not be able to talk much about the runs I've been doing of late.  Yet I know that I am not done with running.  This past year has shown me that I can take running farther (pun intended) than I have previously.

While I have seen myself as a long-distance runner, enjoying half-marathons in particular but also the occasional marathon, I also have begun to make significant progress on speed.  My first half-marathon had me come in at 2:25 and yet, the marathon I ran two months ago, had me at 1:51.  Now, that's not necessarily fast for the serious and competitive runners--but for a 36-year-old guy who ranks in the Clydesdale (over 210 weight) and runs in the barefoot shoes, it's pretty damn good.  All of this is to say that I 'm finally understanding and learning to improve and maintain a good steady pace throughout the longer races and I believe that I have the chance to continue to do better.

Book cover - The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances by The Oatmeal
Looking for an entertaining book
to inspire you to run?
Try this one!
It's so hard to explain what changed.   There was a convergence of things that seemed to propel me into running.  I've noted that the shoes (Vibrams) played an important role.  So did the Fitbit (and Basis) too in terms of helping me monitor progress.  I also know that because several people I knew were becoming active runners, that also had a positive impact on me.  Especially as I started to run, their support, encouragement, and recognition of my accomplishments (many of them knowing my loathsome view of running previously) gave me little boosts.  I know that writing about running and even posting the races that I planned to sign up for aided me, creating some level of public accountability.  I also rallied around my accomplishments.  Every time, I made a new distance, a new speed, a new challenge, I celebrated--if not publicly, then with a pat on my own back.  Basically, I harnessed every piece of positive influence to keep me going and kept myself from discouragement by regularly reminding myself that I was in competition with no one--just on a journey to make me better.  

For those flirting with running, trying to start, or standing as far away from it as you can (that is, running away from it), I get it.  I've been in all of those spaces over the years.  But I encourage you to keep at it if you continue to find yourself wondering if you could run any distance.  The switch can flip for many people; it's just a matter of finding the right conditions.  The three most important pieces of advice I can tell you are this:


Ditch the watch, ditch the distance tracker at the start.  Pay no attention to how far or how fast you are going.  This is merely noise.  Until you feel you are at a point at which you enjoy running, don't bother using a watch.  You might want to mark a particular distance that you know is between 3-5 miles (e.g. a bike path, a lake path, etc), but don't track your time until you feel like you can enjoy the running in itself.

Load up the playlist

Make a powerlist of music to keep you going.  Early on, keep it limited to your 20 most energizing songs--the kind of songs that you can't help but move every time you hear.  Rather than using a clock, you can use songs to measure distance initially.  Try to run for at least 3-4 songs and expand from there.  Let the music channel through you and get you moving.

Go slow

I can't say this enough.  One major reason running never worked for me was because I couldn't figure out my pace.  When I got the Vibrams, it meant that I really had to slow down because my feet couldn't take the pain since the soles were so slim.  This slowing down was super-helpful because it meant my breathing wasn't being overly stressed.  It doesn't matter if you could walk faster, they are different movements.   Work on slowing your run and finding your rhythm--once you unlock this harmony, speeding up becomes increasingly easier.  This is likely to be the hardest piece of advice here, especially if you are listening to your favorite music as it's likely to push you to go faster, but resist it.  Go as slow as you need to until your step, lungs, and heart are aligned. 

Celebrate every and all wins

Lance - Half-Marathon June 2016
Ripping up the road on the final
stretch of my recent half-marathon
Any time you get out to run, anytime you got a bit further or a bit faster, complete a race, or just struggle and manage to do a run you weren't going to do otherwise--own it and celebrate it.  It can be so hard to get up and out the door to run.  For some, maybe it is easy, but for others, it can feel like an insurmountable challenge just to get out the door.  If you get out the door, celebrate!  I would recommend to also join a social-network for health like DailyMile or if you have a device, Garmin Connect (then you can add me and we can encourage and celebrate each other's accomplishments!). 


No really.  Your body affects your mind.  If you work to smile while thinking out running, heading out to run, while running, after running, it will affect your overall mood towards running.  This will boost your enthusiasm and excitement for running and create a fantastic feedback loop.

So that's all I have for now!  It's been a great five years running and I am so grateful for each and everyone one of you who have directly and indirectly cheered me on. 

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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Tales of Running: The Post-Run Run Victory Lap Edition

A screen shot of my timing on my Garmin Connect screen.
For the last few years of running, I have been trying to improve my time on the longer runs.  Particularly, I wanted to hit under two hours for my half-marathon time and four hours (or at one point, just anything better than what I had done) for the marathons.   Last fall, I broke the two-hour mark with my half marathon at the Half-Marathon by the Sea from YuKanRun, coming in at 1:55:08.  It was an exciting day to break the time and realize that the kid who couldn't do one mile in twelve minutes for much of his life, was now averaging 8:45-minute miles for over thirteen miles.  

As accomplished as it felt, the Doubt Demon in my head still continued to tell me it was a fluke.  It was a one-off.  It must have been a mistake.  I'm guessing some of you have had this experience if not this particular anecdote.  So present was this idea that I made it a goal this year to do it again (and maybe somewhere along the line improve upon it, but actually doing it again ranked higher).  

When I showed up for the Fast Half, maintaining was my goal.  Hell, I just wanted to come in under two hours. I didn't even have to match the same time; "Just show me under two hours isn't beyond the realm of possibility" is what I thought to myself.  Well, it wasn't.  I crossed the finish line under two hours and with a new personal record:  1:52:35.  While I can believe I did it, I am still elated by the fact that I did.  For the first time, I came in the top one hundred (94 out of 324 to be specific) and even came in 19th in my age group.  And true, it may not be ranking high on any list, but it's ranking first among mine.  The ranking itself serves more as a sense of how I have improved over the years and less about whether I am winning or losing against others.  

Lance Eaton crossing the finish line.
Elated as I was in the moment, I think felt it most strongly two days after I ran the race.  Typically, the day after, I will make it an easy day.  I may do some physical activities (e.g. walking), but I avoid running and let me body rest.  By the second day, I am usually looking to dawn the Vibrams.  However, that's also the day in which the soreness peaks.  I hobbled around the day feeling the tightness and sore muscles moan with each step and fully cry out when I tried to descend a staircase (this is the of the post-run soreness; I cling tightly to all handrails on staircases in the aftermath of a hard run).  

I got suited up and ready to take my run, which was a battle in itself.  I knew a light run would do me well, but another part of me (those aching muscles), begged to take another day off, to bask in my victory a bit more and be sure not to push myself into injury.  I pushed on and got ready.  I got to where I usually start my runs, activated the GPS watch, and hit play on the music.  I lurched forward and my muscles cried in a mixture of pleasure and pain.  Pleasure at the familiar cadence and movement, pain at the familiar cadence and movement.  These were going to be some slow miles and that was ok.  I wasn't looking for speed, just mileage and to stretch out the legs a bit.

However, around the one third-mile mark (basically a few minutes in), it happened.  I wouldn't find my speed for this run, but I would find my pace and my peace.  At this mark, I felt the gears shift within me and my body recognize what it was doing; it stopped fighting me and starting working with me.  The muscle ache dissolved and I moved smoothly along. 

Lance Eaton with his finisher medal.
Muscle memory is a funny thing.  I can't say that I entirely understand it or know whether it is a real thing.  But I know in that moment, by body recognized what it was doing and let go.  It also triggered the memory of running the race two days previously.  It brought me to the hard and constant push I pursued for nearly two hours.  It reminded me of the determination, the excitement, and the sense of accomplishment I felt two days prior.  None of this is to say that I found my groove and sprinted off.  Rather, the run was a nod to and appreciation of the distance traveled two days earlier. 

The lifting of soreness, no doubt a chemical reaction of some sort, also felt like my body thanking the mind for trusting it, pushing it, and loving it.  My body moved along smoothly after that; each step came easily.  It wouldn't be a long run, just a run long enough to work the body a little bit without further harm.  But like so many other runs, my body had given way from resisting to embracing, from dreading to loving. 

In this way, the run was a victory lap of several sorts.  A run to celebrate the recent personal victory but also a run to celebrate the overall victory of becoming and continuing to consciously choose to be a runner.  A run to say that I can do this and I can keep doing this and will keep doing this.  

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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

This Season's Running Line Up

It's been a few months since I've dedicated any posts on running.  Clearly, there have been other priorities.  But with the spring approaching, I'm revving up to get in some races this year.

Results from the Frosty Four:  Lance Eaton, Bib: 187, Age 36, has finished the Wicked Frosty Four in a place and time of 33:02:0164.  33:19 0Last year was both a struggle and a success.  I struggled with a hip-strain which killed much of the summer.  I floundered a little bit during June when I started the PhD program and during the semester when things got really busy.  Most recently, I had to take at least three weeks off from running to let a cold finally go away that had been lingering around way too much.  Yet, it was also a success.  I ran my first half-marathon in under two hours.  I followed this up with a five-mile race where I ran in under 43 minutes and a 4 mile race on New Years' Day where I ran close to 33 minutes (8:15'ish minute miles!).  Something over the course of the year had changed that helped me find the right pace and approach to running to help me increase my time.  I will never be "fast" but I am slowly moving toward the middle or even the top third of the pack--such a far cry from my youth when all runs resulted in me in dead last.  And while placing ahead of others isn't necessarily a goal for me, it is an indicator of progress.

With all that in mind, I'm looking to this year to continue to do well.  I'm not necessarily looking to get even faster, but I am looking to be consistent in my running in terms of the times I've seen thus far.  Of course, there's a part of me that wants to get under 8 minute miles for a half-marathon and at this point would just love 10 minute miles for a full.  But more realistically, I just want to complete all these races this year and end the year feeling like I've (literally--hahaha) gone the distance.  

Fool's Dual Half Marathon 2016
Sunday, April 3, 2016
I did this as my starting run last year.  It's a good half-marathon to start the season with and so long as the weather is agreeable, I anticipate doing ok at this one.  It will be more than six months since running my last half-marathon, so I'm not breaking any records here.  I just want to see where I am at.

Earth Rock Run Half Marathon
Sunday, May 1, 2016
I did this two years ago when it was a full marathon.  It was rough and hilly.  They're advertising a much flatter course, which makes me hopeful (I'm still remembering the hills!).  But being early May and with the first half-marathon behind me, I think this will better than the Fool's Dual.  

Fast Half Marathon
Sunday, May 15, 2016
This is a new one that is being offered by YuKanRun (in fact, I'm signing up for many of their halfs-because they are local).  They're pitching it as their flattest course, which could mean a really good time--especially by now if I'm into the rhythm of the half-marathons and am getting to run outdoors more in April and May.   

Twin Lobster Half Marathon 2016
Sunday, June 5, 2016
I forget at this point if I've done this before, but it's a good one to do before things get crazy in January with classes.  I think I would be in peak performance at this point, though this is a hilly course if I remember correctly (or remember hearing about), which will be interesting to see how this impacts my pace.  

Ultra Around the Lake
July 24/25
So I want to try this race.  I've been eyeing it for a few years and they have 2 options:  12-hours and 24 hours.  I will be opting for the 12-hours race.  I want to see how far I get--how much I can actually run in a 12 hour period.  I'm sure I will be in rough shape afterwards, but I'm also sure that it will be an interesting test.  

25K Around the Goose
September 4
I ran this my second year of running.  It was the first time I had run such a distance in a race.  It will be like returning home in some ways but after traveled thousands of miles.  

Half Marathon-by-the-Sea 2016
Sunday, September 25, 2016
This was the race that I broke my two-hour time last year.  I want to do it again.  I'm not necessarily worried about doing better than last year (though that would be nice).  I'm just interested in making sure I beat two hours.  

Baystate Marathon
October 16
I skipped out last year because October was insanely busy.  I am hoping I can balance things better this year and make this happen.  I want to do well this year and break my previous time.  I feel like this time I am in a space that I could significantly better than in my past marathons.  So here's hoping!

That's the season line up.  I'm hoping to get to all of these races, though I haven't registered for them all.  I learned that in the last 2 years, I've lost a bit too much money to races I ended up not running because of various issues.  So I'll sign up as each one gets a bit closer and it looks like I'll be ready for it.  

What about you?  Got any races or athletic events that you're training for?  How do you keep on target?  

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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Tales of Running: The Bull and the Cheetah

I am, in no uncertain terms, a bull.  I am broad, have legs like tree-trunks--whether fit from running or not--and will never fit into anything less than large (and even that is stretching it--literally).  It is clear that my genetic predisposition set me up for brute--not skillful--labor.  I've come to utterly appreciate that about myself and my body.  Like I've said before, I'm more like a mule when it comes to physical prowess. 

But getting to this certainly wasn't easy.  Our society appreciates the cheetah more than the bull.  In part, this probably results from both our Puritanical need for being productive and our Industrial Revolution desire for mass (that is, fast) production.  Though some facets of sports focus on the bull (tackling, hitting or kicking the ball), many more rely on cheetah (out-maneuvering your opponent, running the bases, getting to the other side of the court or field first).  Lacking any real cheetah-like abilities and being a meatball as kid significantly disinclined me to sports when growing up.  Even in the more bull-related sports like football, I floundered.  They still focused too much on cheetah skills and those were not in my wheelhouse.  

Because so much is based on the cheetah, I always thought speed was of the essence.  If I was going to do a sport, I needed to be fast or push myself to be faster.  Trying to reconcile being a bull in a cheetah world took a very long time.  In fact, you could say that it took until I was about thirty-two years old, when I finally took up (and stuck with) running.  

Embracing my bull-hood has helped me come to running with a new disposition.  The goal became sustained movement (running) for a prolonged amount of time.  Moving quickly wasn't nearly as important as to keep moving.  I often asked how it is that I went from loathing running to absolutely loving it and one part of my answer is that I needed to really slow down before I could even consider running fast (whatever that relative term means).  Of course, what helped me slow down significantly were using the Vibrams since I loudly and clearly felt the impact of each step. 

While I know I will never be a cheetah, running races where I'm anywhere in the top one-third of best times, I do know that I can be a better bull when I run.  That is, there are definitely lessons I can take from cheetahs that can help me--bullish that I am--run better and more effectively.  

Take a close look at these two creatures in mid-stride.  


And he's off!

While the cheetah looks to be nearly hovering in mid-stride, the bull still has at least one hoof on the ground.  You can see it more closely in these two videos that illustrate running bulls and a running cheetah.  

The cheetah running is the art of nature.  It nearly flies when at peak performance.  Absolutely beautiful.  By contrast, when the bulls (or cows in this case) run, they clop along with little rhyme or grace.  They're still beautiful creatures but have little grace or form in this regard.  

That's me, the bull.  Yet, I've recently been reflecting on my different runs what changes when I'm running at a natural gait and when I'm trying to push for a new personal record.  I soon realized that during my regular runs, I run like the bull that I am.  However, when it's time to push hard, I become a cheetah-bull (not to be confused with a cheating-bull, right?).  In watching the cheetah video, there is an economy and repetition of motion that aids in increasing the cheetah's speed.  No move is wasted and while the hind legs drive the run, the front legs provide the temporary balance until the rear can push off once again.  The cheetah uses most likely what would be called its core to keep the body from flopping about once it has boosted forward with the hind legs.  

I came to realize that when I'm running just to run--not paying attention to speed, I like the bull have a less fluid movement--it's more staccato.  But when I'm trying to reach speeds, my body changes.  My core contracts to keep my body unified, my arms swing in a more measured cadence and close by my sides, my steps become more precise.  I begin pulling in air through my nose and releasing it in controlled bursts through my mouth.  I can feel the muscles in my abs, back, and shoulders syncing together to propel me further.  

I have no clue how this looks to the outsider.  I may still look like the bull, storming down the runway, likely to trample small children and the elderly.  But I feel like the cheetah.  I feel fast--whatever the hell that means to me and it feels great.  

So to my fellow bulls out there, trekking along, embrace your bull but don't hesitate to try out your inner or fledgling cheetah.  You may find that your cheetah-bull run is rewarding, if only because it makes your bull trot all the more enjoyable.  

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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Running Update

So I've been rather quite on the running front of late.  The last I posted on running was way back in August when I was talking about my recovery.  I continued running through the fall and completed the Baystate Marathon, though came in around the same time as the year before, which was disappointing but there wasn't much I could do about it.  However, I have been running pretty consistently since then and am looking forward to another season of running.

Monthly Running Mileage.
Monthly Running Mileage.
I'm mostly itching to get outside and start running.  I've been running for months but it has been all on the treadmill.  I've learned to tolerate the treadmill pretty decently, so long as I had Netflix to get me through it.  January and February were less than stellar.  I blame that mostly on moving in late January coupled with the start of the semester and of course, blizzard season. March has me in much finer form and the forthcoming months will be more successful in this regard.

I'm also itching to get another crack at a half-marathon and beat the 2:00 mark.  I'm so close and I feel like I have a solid strategy and comfort level with the half-marathon that I will do it this year.  Meanwhile on the marathon front, I just hope I get in enough long-runs that I can get under the 4:20 mark come this fall when I tackle the Baystate Marathon for the third year.

Anywho, for those interested in the runs that I'm signed up for, here they are!

Moose on the Loose Half Marathon

Nashua, New Hampshire
Sunday, April 12

Maine Coast Marathon

Sunday, May 10

Triple Threat Half-Marathon

Sunday, August 2

Half Marathon by the Sea

Sunday, September 27

Baystate Marathon

Sunday, October 18th

So what races are you signed up for?  What are some of your running goals this year?

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Photo Reflection of the Day #33: Snowy Running Shoes

What Is It

A pair of my Vibrams in between the window and the screen with snow on them.

Why It's Today's Pick

This is where my Vibrams go after I am done running with them on the treadmill.  No surprise with that.  For those that have run with the Vibrams, they know the propensity for them to get pretty stinky, regardless of the amount of times you wash them.  I thought this was a great contrast--barefoot running (or nearly barefoot running) with another blustering snowstorm.  The snow would hint at their disuse but in fact, they had just been put there a few hours before.  I cringe to think about putting them on in that state. I also like the contrast in this photo of the dark shoes and the white of the background and foreground.  The mesh of the screen seems to add something and helps to establish distance with a half-covered truck in the background.  Meanwhile, the brown of the tree add to the dullness emanating from the picture.

This submission is part of the 365 Challenge.  For 2015's submissions, check out this link to all the posts.  For access to all photos, which open for reuse under a Creative Commons License, check out the full album on Flickr.

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Getting Back on Track: Recovering to Running

So my last post on running was a while back and I was discussing an injury.  The final diagnosis was a herniated disc with a pinched nerve.  Fun times!  May was a hard month, especially coming off my personal best of running a half-marathon in 2:03.  

I was able to start running in June but I had to take it easy.  For the first half of June there was pain that accompanied the running.  Additionally, June was just a very busy month for work and having to do the doctor shuffle only added to it.  July was also busy with work and teaching.  However, in both months, I managed to do over 80 miles, so I'm happy with that.  80 miles is still a distance that there are upwards of decades where I did not accumulate that much running--so I'll take it!  

Image of Train Tracks.  Source:
Getting back on
them tracks!
After the diagnosis in late June and a regiment of physical therapy that went on over June and July, the doctor gave me the go-ahead at the end of July to return to training.  During June and July, I did not do more than 6.5 miles on most occasions.  I went up to 7 once or twice.  However, now that we're gearing up to see if completing the Bay State Marathon is possible, it's back to training for me.  I talked with Dave, my coach at Breakthrough Performance Coaching and we started up slow--trying to get me back up to the longer distances I was used to before.  

This past weekend I had my first real long run in a while:  a 1.5 hour/9 mile run.  In some ways, it felt intimidating because it had been so long since running it, but in other ways, it felt like an old friend.  In fact, while I took the first six miles at a light pace, just trying to endure, I decided to push myself the last three miles of it and found that I actually managed to do under 9 minute miles.  Given that I had been happy with anything under 10 minutes, I was ecstatic to see the mileage ringing in around the 8:50s.  

It's 9 weeks or so until the Bay State Marathon.  I believe I will be in good enough shape to complete it but I'm not sure I will be doing anything better than what I did last year.  I'm slightly frustrated by this because given all that I've been putting into running, I feel like not being able to improve upon this is somehow a failure.  I know it's not, but of course, my Doubt Demon loves to prey upon such insecurities.  

Regardless, I'll continue to slay the Doubt Demon, get back in my Vibrams, and keep running.  After all, any miles complete is a victory.  I'll keep you posted as I continued with the miles.  And speaking of which, even if I do not accomplish my 4 hour marathon, or 2 hour half-marathon (though I've damn close!), I'm within 300 miles of hitting my 1000 miles for 2014.  In terms of mileage, I'm close to where I was last year at the end of the year and I've still got 4 good months of fall running!  

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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Tales of Running: Vibram-Gait (Get it?)

About a month ago, I across several of my feeds that Vibrams had recently settled a big lawsuit.  Now, we all know here that I'm a big Vibrams fan.  They are a shoe for all seasons as far as I see it.  So when I found out that they had settled a lawsuit, I was pretty surprised, initially.  

Not giving them up any time soon!
They lawsuit did not have to do with injuries incurred by the users but by the health claims associated with Vibrams.  They claimed things about their product that were not scientifically proven and someone called them on it  Fair enough--no company should falsely represent itself in such a manner.  However, I noticed that a good amount of people have used the loss to gloat, laugh at, or validate their belief that Vibrams are bad.  I get why they have done so but of course, as someone who has made a fundamental lifestyle change (that is, became a runner) that was a direct result of Vibrams, I feel I need to speak to what the lawsuit does and doesn't represent for me.  

Vibrams settled and therefore, did not lose the lawsuit.  There is a distinction worth noting here.  They are not guilty but recognize the overstretching of their claims.  This translates into they cannot prove their claims as of yet but that's not to say the claims won't eventually ring true.  There has been limited research on this topic and with mixed information.  

The limited results don't sway me against Vibrams because they aren't robust enough.  In order for real proof to be acquired about this, you would need the following groups to study:

  • Group 1:  Do nothing--not even run (essentially, your control group).
  • Group 2:  People who already run with regular shoes (and continue to do so; a control regular group, so to speak)
  • Group 3: People who already run with Vibrams (and continue to do so; a control Vibram group).
  • Group 4: People who take up running with regular shoes.
  • Group 5: People who take up running with Vibram shoes.
  • Group 6: People who switch from regular shoes to Vibram shoes.
  • Group 7: People who switch from Vibrams shoes to regular shoes.
  • Group 8: People who stop running altogether (having run with regular shoes)
  • Group 9: People who stop running altogether (having run with Vibram shoes)

As someone who did not run at all and first started running with Vibrams, I know my experience is likely to be profoundly different than the person who makes the switch from running with regular shoes to Vibrams and I think this is where researchers explore for more clearer results.  Unfortunately, I think some will take the lawsuit as shorthand for the idea that the shoes are dangerous or injury-inducing and therefore, avoid them or encourage others to avoid them.  

That being said, if you have invested in a pair of Vibrams as a direct result of my encouragement or it was one of the things that influenced you, feel free to get your refund from the settlement at this website.  The form is easy to fill out especially if you've bought only one or two pairs.  

I will continue to run and purchase Vibrams as I have had amazing success with them and believe they are a useful shoe (when used correctly). 

Tales of Running: The Injury Edition

While such things are bound to happen when one engages in athletic training (or rather just in the course of life), it is still a major disappointment when one ends up with an injury.  Thus rather than regular updates about my runs during May such as the marathon and the half-marathon I had lined up, I'm writing about my injury.  To pour salt on the literal (though not open) wound, I sustained the injury while not running.  For many athletes, that's the pinnacle of disappointments when it comes to running (Ok, I can't really say this with any certainty but it would seem that injuring one's self while doing the thing you love to do is somehow more acceptable.  

No Running sign:  Image source:
Several days after I did my personal best half-marathon, I was running.  I ran about 13 miles that day and was doing things around the apartment.  I had a crick in my neck from the night before and was doing some rigorous work around the apartment when I felt a my whole left shoulder and neck area flair up in pain.  It was pretty nasty but tolerable in the moment.  Over the next few days, the pain didn't really subside and by the weekend, it was clear that I couldn't lift my arm more than a foot from my body.  

So off I went to the interwebs to investigate and it seemed to align with a torn rotator cuff.  I contacted and made an appointment with my primary care person who seemed to think it was something along those lines and sent me to an orthopedic doctor.  His thoughts varied from what else was said.  He believes it's a scapula tear of some sort with leakage that has caused a cyst (of liquid) that is putting pressure on the nerves.  Because it was just speculation, he sent me off to get an MRI and will follow up with an appointment with him next week.  

Whether it is a torn rotator cuff, a torn scapula or something else, I am out of the long-distance running game for a couple months.  Since much of it is likely to require surgery and recovery from that will be 2-3 months depending.  Given that said surgery is at least a month away from today (as in, it hasn't been planned yet), that's going to kill this year's prospects of hitting my running goals.  That, of course, is quite disappointing and while I know it's a minor set-back in the big picture of life (after all, I am hugely grateful that I have healthcare to cover the various procedures and costs as well as a workplace that doesn't demand much physically), it is still frustrating (never mind the continued pain I feel day-to-day).  

Up until this week, I had not run for 3 weeks.  I had waited until I saw the orthopedic doctor to find out if running was going to do more damage to the injury and then, However, the doctor said that running was going to be ok so long as it didn't hurt.  I chose to relax most of the weekend, recognizing that the injury has taken a mental and emotional toll on me.    I finally decided to go for a run on Monday, followed by one on Tuesday and Thursday.  All the runs were hard to some degree.  It was clear my legs were itching to run but I noticed my breathing needed some time to get back into rhythm and also that my arm cadence was a bit off.  My feet too needed to re-toughen up (that is, I have a few blisters from not having worn the Vibrams in 3 weeks).  I think my arm was ok with the swing but that I was just overly sensitive to any and all arm movement because of the shoulder.  Overall, it felt wonderful to be back running.  I know I will only get to do this up until I have surgery and I limit myself to the 3-5 mile range but I'm still relieved to get in what running I can.  

Injuries are tricky things.  They remind us of our limitations and fragility as humans.  They challenge a great many things we take for granted about ourselves and our bodies (e.g. lifting your arm) and can be humbling.  The injury has been a good reminder about challenges and limitations others face regularly as a result of injury, disability, or even age.   Several weeks of constant pain and I'm raw and extremely vulnerable.  I cannot even fathom what it would be like for that number to be months or years but it does help to give me a glimmer of understanding.  

The prospect of being down for several months is a challenge.  As running has become a central part of my life and routine, I find it's temporary loss sad and worry about how recovery will be and how I might get back to where I am know.  I'm sure it will all work out but that doesn't keep the mind from wandering.  So I guess for now this is the last of my running updates for a few months.  

How have you dealt with injury and recovery process?  What advice do can you give?  How do you keep perspective?

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Tales of Running: A Tale of Two Half Marathons

Image: Lance Eaton - Fools Dual Number 24
So as some might recall, I'm into my most ambitious phase of my running for the year at least in terms of races.  In just a month, I've run a Half Marathon (Plus 5K), a marathon, and another Half Marathon with another marathon around the corner.  I've already talked about the first marathon but I never got the chance to talk about the first half-marathon (and 5K) because April was super-busy.  But after today's half-marathon, I thought it was a good opportunity to talk about the challenge of that run and the success of today.

The Fool's Dual as it is called is a half marathon and 5K.  Some people sign up for one or the other.  I did the crazy thing and signed up for both (because clearly, I'm a fool.).  The 5K came first and I treated merely as a warm up.  I didn't pay attention to time and just eased into it, looking get the benefit of a respectable warm up before diving into the half marathon.

Image: Lance Eaton's Time on the Fool's Dual Half Marathon 2014: 2:12:47
When I originally was thinking of writing a post about this run, I was going to name it, "The Fools Dual, or The Hills of Gloucester Have OWWS!!!"  This was a very hilly course and it felt like every time I was coming off a hill, there was another one.  While was I ready for a half-marathon, I don't know that I was ready for a half-marathon.  I went into the race, thinking that I would definitely at least get close to my last best from the fall, about 2:05 or so.  I thought it was in the bag until the I was a few miles into the race and clearly realized it wasn't going to happen.  I struggled through this race and while I ultimately made good time for my first complete half-marathon of the season (2:12:47), I was still a little bummed that the race took such a toll on me.  Again, by contrast to last year's first half marathon (which was in July and had me coming in at 2:41), it was a major success and despite the hills, I managed to complete it strong, particularly the last mile.

By the end of the race, my legs were dead weights for sure but there was some other things I noticed from the run.  The first was that while it was almost perfect weather (50s and sunny), I didn't realize how much the sunny would drain my energy.  However, it was early spring and there were no clouds.  What this mean was that there was no actual shade on the route, it was just sun the whole time.  Towards the end of the race, I could feel the effect on my face and head of being in direct sunlight for two hours.  That's just not something I had thought of as an issue while running in the cooler weather.

Image: Lance Eaton - Wallis Sands Half Marathon's number: 315
With some disappointment from this race because I wasn't closer to my 2:05 time when I ran the marathon last October and some disappointment because the marathon from last week was a bit rougher than I anticipated, I had a week of contemplation as I geared up for the  half-marathon this weekend (or rather let myself recover from the marathon and try to get in some running for this event).  I've been putting in the hours of running (averaging over 30 miles a week since March and about 130 a month for March and April).  My legs at this point, particularly from the knees downward look two massive tree trunks.  I knew I needed something in today's race to pick me up from propel me forward as I approach marathon #2 next week.

The Wallis Sands Half-Marathon was exactly what I needed.  It's a pretty run with a good chunk of it along the coast and small towns in New Hampshire.  More importantly, it was a largely flat course with a few inclines but nothing I faced in the prior two runs.  The weather was perfect at the start and throughout, being sunny and in the 50s with a good breeze (though that sometimes was a pain--particularly at the end).

Lance Eaton at the finish of the Wallis Sands Half Marathon with Finisher Glass.
I arrived about an hour before the race as usual.  I got my number, pinned it on (with not body piercing--win!), and relaxed in my car for a while as others showed up.   There was a good amount of people at this event--over 900 runners and walkers as well.  Rather than one herd release, they were doing timed releases so I was in the third group which was about 10 minutes after the start of the race.  I gave myself time to stretch, hit the bathroom (and wait through the long lines) and was ready at my time.

I instantly took up two strategies that I found extremely useful in getting through the marathon that I had not used as much in the past.  The first is I worked hard to breath in through my nose and out through my nose or my mouth.  Typically, I've been a mouth-breather because breathing through my nose is annoying as it is often runny during the races.  I grinned and bared with and brought a snot rag.  The other method I worked hard to hold onto throughout was to focus on the ground in front of me.  I have found that when I do this, coupled with the breathing, I am able to pick up speed.  I move faster without necessarily feeling like I am moving faster.  The two things just allow me to focus my energy and attention.

So I held as best as I could to these two tactics, though occasionally, they would be derailed.  I needed to look up to figure out where I was going or to work on maneuvering around people.  The breathing would be interrupted by having to blow my nose, drinking liquids or eating food (ok, gel packs are not food but you get the point).  Ultimately, they paid off.  I landed my best half-marathon time yet:  2:03:07.

Lance Eaton's finish time at the  Wallis Sands Half Marathon: 2:03:11
Though I was really hoping for under two hours, I knew by about 1:45 that it probably wasn't going to happen.  My muscles were ok, through it was clear that my quads were solid rocks.  More pressing was that my feet were feeling the effect of the hard run on top of three previous days of running (a 4 mile on Thursday, 9 mile on Friday, and 3 mile on Saturday).  They were already in tough shape going into it.  However, they struggled on and got me to a personal best.

According to the results, I came 347 out of 922, which is to say I came in among the top 40%.  In general, these placings never really matter much to me.  Everyone that showed up to run busted their butts and other body parts to get to that finish line.  However, I am proud that I finished in the first half for probably the first time in any of these half-marathons.  I also supposedly came in 3 among the Clydesdales (our of 14) but am not sure how accurate or relevant that is.

So there's the win that I was looking for.  Next week, I have my next marathon which is essentially five 5.08 loops.  I'm actually very curious to see what effect this will have on my running and my conceptualizing of the the run.  If I can think of it in strict terms of 5 loops, can I somehow do better overall?  I guess I'll find out!

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Tales of Running: Marathon #2: Ok, At Least, I Finished!

Lance Eaton - Earth Rock Run 2014
That's my "Oh God, It's Finally Over" look.
Trademarked, 2014
So I ran 26.2 miles yesterday for the second time in my life.  Interestingly enough, it was much harder this time around mentally and physically.  This is interesting because I feel like I've been training more properly for this race than I may have for the first marathon that I did.  I completed the run and feel I did accomplish something but that my time was nearly 15 minutes slower than my first marathon and I feel in much rougher shape today than I did the day after I did my first is a little disappointing.

I ran it in just under 4:50.  With my last 1.2 miles, being done at a 6 mile per hour clip (that is, 10 minute mile speed).  I feel some victory there in being able to still do 10 minute miles at the end of this run.  I also think this course was significantly different from the the first marathon in that it had a lot of hills and some steep ones for sure.  The Bay State Marathon had hills but they were gradual inclines for long distances.  The Earth Rock Run had hills.  It looped as well so I knew well enough what was coming up in the second half of the race.  Besides the hills, the weather was a mixed bag.  It rained throughout the first half and was in the 40s.  While there was no direct sun which prevented energy drain, the cold did its share a wearing on me too.    Besides sore muscles, I didn't get nearly as much physical ailments from this race as I've discussed before.  I made proper use of Vaseline which helped a lot.

Watch Reading - Earth Rock Run 2014:  4 hours, 49 minutes 40 seconds
While overall my running has been going well, I've been averaging lower-30 miles a week and the last two months I've cleared 130 miles in a month.  I've been impressed with how much more running I am doing.  However, there were some indicators that this race wasn't going to be my best.  Two weeks ago, I ran the Fools Dual Half Marathon (5K and Half-Marathon).  I ran the 5K portion nice and light to loosen up.  However, the Half-Marathon I was hoping for something along last year's season ender (within the 2:05-2:07 time range) but came in at just over 2:12.  This was a hard and hilly course that I definitely was struggling with to maintain focus.  The two weeks in-between I was distracted with projects at work as well as going away for 5 days (and getting engaged!) and though I got in some runs, I was still not quite back to where I wanted to be with runs.

My next marathon is in 2.5 weeks.  It's a 5.2 (or close thereto) mile loop that you complete 5 times.  For some reason, I think mentally, this could be an easier race to pace and strategize than some of these others that are either 2 big loops or one long distance, but I guess we'll find out. Before that, I have another half-marathon next weekend that I'm hoping will be able to improve upon what I've done thus far.

Even though it's not where I'd like to be at this point, I feel like it's still further than where I have been before so there's that to appreciate and recognize.  It also sets a nice low bar to start the season with and mark accomplishments.

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The Black Cat 10 Miler--WIN!

The winter has been a pain in the ass for those of us trying to get in our running mileage.  I've been treadmill bound for almost two months and I'm getting antsy about it.  Granted, I've been getting through some good shows such as Shameless Season 3 and even the Thundercats Season 1 remake (they really should make season 2--I was impressed with the reboot), but it's been hard to deal with the whether. 

 I have made considerable progress since last year and can comfortable run in weather in the 30s and tolerate weather in the upper 20s if it is a race.  However, the cold is only one part of the equation.  The other issue is snow, of which we've had a lot and much of it still lingers which makes running on sidewalks quite problematic.  Is it April yet?  

Anyways, this preamble is mostly to say that despite these conditions, my running is going pretty good.  I had my first race this past weekend and I am happy with the results.  Technically, it should have been my second run, but the weather for the first run included a potential heavy snow-storm and I wasn't going to deal with that. 

Thus, my first run of this season was the same as my first run from last season, The Black Cat 10 Miler (I was originally going to do the 20, but more on that below).  The run went quite well.  I maintained just over a 10 minute mile pace for the first 6 miles.  My time at the 6 mile mark was 1:01.  The next three miles I was able to complete by 1:29, which means I did about a 9:20 mile.  However, the finally mile was the victory:  I did it in just over 8 minutes.  I came in at 1:37:16.  That's 2 minutes less from last year, but also, I felt I ran the race better overall.
Black Cat 10 Mile - Medal and Number 2014

It felt like a victory because my Doubt Demon was awfully strong with me that morning as I rolled out of bed and saw that the temperature outside was in the teens.  I had not run in this kind of cold and was anxious about my ability to endure, particular because I wear the Vibrams.  

So what contributed to this success?  I did something in January and early February that with some encouragement, I realized was a really good idea.  I found myself an endurance coach.  I have set an ambitious amount of running goals for this year and while last year, I did well in building up to the marathon, I did it mostly in the dark, figuring out stuff through trial and error.  That's not a bad method per se but I feel I lucked out in not injuring myself.  So I decided to go with Dave Sek, at Breakthrough Performance Coaching.  A significant reason for going with Dave is because I have known him for most of my life but also because I have been following his adventures in the last few years and saw the level of skill and training that he was bringing.  I figured if I was going to improve, he's probably a solid bet to get me there.  In meeting with him and figuring out realistic goals for the next year, we set forward with training schedule (that updates regularly as I move towards different races). 

Overall, the training has been going great.  I managed about 70 miles in January but have moved up the mileage in February (a month with 3 less days) to 93 miles.  I anticipate March will also be high in numbers, which is good because my next race is 20 miles, so I'll need to be ready for that beast.  For some reason, I think I will be.  

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