Monday, February 7, 2011

Back in the Saddle

Like many of you out there I read "Born to Run" last year and my curiosity led me to Zombie Runner in Palo Alto to buy the FiveFingers Bikila. My sporadic training made transitioning to low-profile shoes relatively easy and I've run almost exclusively in them for the last six months.

I have to say that running closer to barefoot has been a revelation. The three people who read my orthotics post from 2008 will know that I've struggled mightily against the oppression of overpronation. Imagine my surprise when I ran six miles comfortably in the Bikilas without any achilles, shin splints or knee pain whatsoever. All the symptoms that plagued me in regular running shoes were absent.

Last Thursday I left my Bikilas at home and pulled by old Mizuno trainers out of my sports bag for my lunchtime run. I've logged a lot of miles in Mizuno shoes over the years and they make a spectacular product but the shoes could not have felt worse. All this time running barefoot changed my stride for the better but ruined me for regular running shoes. I felt sluggish as if I was unable to apply any power through my stride. It was like a nightmare I dreamt more than once where I'm racing but I'm suspended just above the ground and I can't propel myself forward.

Needless to say on Saturday morning I departed for my long run in the Fivefinger's Bikila again. My stride felt alive again - compact, dynamic and engergized - despite my glacial pace. That's not to say that my lower leg muscles weren't sore the next day. They were, but in a positive way derived from hard work rather than joint misalignment.

I think this low profile running/barefoot thing is for me. I'll admit the crazy hippie aspect that is clearly evident in a lot of the barefoot running posts I've seen is off-putting for me but my goal is to run far and fast, not join a movement. I think I'll vary my training in the fivefingers with miles logged in a x-country racing flat. It's nice to have a little more stone protection once in a while on some of the rockier trails.

It will be interesting to see how the changes in my stride and cadence impact my interval training that will start next month. I feel like I am more efficient which should translate to faster times but I'll need to lose some weight and log more miles before I can compare my times to 2008.

BTW - I signed up for SF marathon at the end of July. There is no turning back now.