Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A case of cankles...

A little over a week & a half ago I got tattoos in celebration of my journeys on foot or two wheels. Running and triathlon has changed my life and given me such freedom that I felt it was only right to mark that. So while some may say that I might regret my wings many years from now when I'm 80, I'm just excited to explain why I got them to my grandbabies.

My ankles swelled into cankles from the new ink so I had to take some time off, but last week I finally hit the 1,700 mile mark for the year. A combined total between swim,bike,run & row. It's a few hundred short of my goal, but with 6months of wicked tendonitis I'll take it!

The new year is coming and the 2011 race schedule is starting to weigh heavily on my mind. The desire is to go ultra, though I feel pretty stunted not knowing what this foot will allow me to do. For the first time in three years I don't really have a plan. That said, I'm still enjoying running and cycling for absolutely no other reason than that I love to. Hopefully in 90 days I'll be able to cover my years in miles for the bday run, what happens after that.... I have no idea.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Soft Star RunAmoc Review | First Impressions

As the temps & snow continue to fall the need to keep my toes warm on those crisp long runs has become paramount. Up until these beauties arrived I had been running in a different minimalist type shoe, the Bikila by: Vibram Five Fingers paired with Injinji toe socks. The Bikilas are a great shoe, but if you have to stop in the snow at any point during a run your feet will melt the snow between your toes & around them making your feet wet. Not exactly something you want in sub-freezing or even sub-zero temps.

My hunt for a cozy alternative to the VFFs lead me to Soft Star's Shoes. After speaking with the Elves (Their customer service is fantastic.) at Soft Star, I decided to order the Smooth version of the RunAmocs with the trail sole. In spite of ordering the shoes in custom color, width & over a holiday they still managed to show up on my doorstep within a week.

Upon opening the package I quickly realize that the RunAmoc is well named as this shoe is essentially a moccasin for running.

Eager to try them out I slipped them on & went about the rest of my day running errands. At first the leather upper over my toes made them feel a bit trapped, but as you'll read in other reviews this is something that breaks in over time. Even with my limited usage of them so far I am already beginning to feel them loosen up. They are after all leather. That said, the way the overall fit in the toe box is appropriate given that you don't want to be sliding around which could cause instability and blistering.

As I mentioned earlier, I chose to go with the trail sole. Gravel, rocks, ice and ice chunks are common obstacles during my runs so this seemed to be the wisest choice. If you are used to a KSO or Bikila sole the 5mm Vibram sole on these will feel pretty substantial to start, but as soon as you go down a flight of stairs, climb over a snow bank or clip an eight minute mile on slick packed snow you'll see where these soles really shine. So far I would rank these on par if not markedly better for traction on snow than the VFF models I have. I also find that I spend less time looking at the ground for debris that could bruise the bottom of my foot knowing that the thickness of this sole, even with it's flexibility, has enough protection.

Of course since I live in North Dakota my first opportunity to actually run in them landed on an evening of -1F temps and a fresh inch of fluffy snow. Much to my relief my feet stayed warm & dry during the entire run. Now, running thru drifts or sidewalks covered in over 5inches of snow isn't an uncommon occurrence for me so I am curious to see how well the midfoot-to-forefoot seal (pictured above) will function in those conditions, but I haven't had the chance to test that yet.

I plan on keeping an ongoing review of the Smooth RunAmoc so that the rest of you can get a feel for how quickly they'll wear and what terrain or conditions they are the most functional in. This is just the start. It's looking promising so far. :)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Moving On

To say I've had writer's block...that I've been too busy to post...that I've been shamefully avoiding explaining why has been at my fingertips often but never typed out in the past six months.

So here it is; I have been all of those things and now it's time to move on & let the beautiful journey continue. Before I do here is somewhat of an update or explanation (if you will) of what's gone on, I don't want to forget.

When training for a 100 mile ultra or any endurance event you learn well how to accept a certain degree of pain or discomfort, nudge it to the back of your mind & push onward. July 8th was one of the most enjoyable long-runs I'd ever had, but at miles 6, 8 and 22 something was starting to go wrong in my right foot/ankle. The next week I dropped over 8lbs. with a stomach flu, tried to focus on being thankful for the time in bed to allow my foot to recover without worrying about the missed work & training. The week after I thought I was back to normal...I wasn't.

When you have to take off your shoe 15 miles into a trail run to stretch the tendons over a rock to relieve the pain, you know without question that something has definitely gone awry. While I came away from that run with a lot of great memories, during it I really hurt & felt generally unwell. I wouldn't run on trail again for another 80 days.

Weeks passed instead of miles. Injury & illness persisted. Race plans were forced to change. I handled it gracefully, I handled it horribly. Every emotion possible was felt with the longest lingering being guilt & shame over the fact that I was injured.

Work in the following months was a blessing and a curse. It kept me distracted from the fact that I was unable to run, but also became a good excuse to avoid those I had spent countless hours training with. Thanks again to my Beloved & crew for sticking by me. I have no disillusions of how difficult I must have been to tolerate in this time.

Eventually I started to accept things & began setting other goals. Instead of running Lean Horse, I crewed three of my close friends there.

After 30+ sleepless hours crewing I joined Maggie as a pacer on the bittersweet Argyle road. The pain tried to swallow her whole those final 12 miles, but she fought hard and made it to the finish. This wasn't the experience I had spent months dreaming about, yet it was equally as valuable. I discovered that I'm actually very skilled at crewing & my militant side makes me a talented pacer.

I came away from that event with renewed courage to fight to get back to running and I haven't stopped since. In the process of keeping my activity & cardio levels up I fell head-over-heels with Brazilian jiu-jitsu & cycling all over again.

I plan on competing in my first Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu/Submission Grappling tournament in April.

A few months ago I tromped thru the mud with a few friends at one of the dirtiest trail "races" around. Who says you can only wear your wedding dress once? Since then running has ever so slowly started to come back to me again. Praise God! What the Docs have labeled tendonitis still causes me discomfort on a weekly (sometimes daily) basis,but I am now able to run without notable pain as long as I am in minimalist footwear. So I am also making the transition to that style of running, so far so good!

What's in store for my 2011 race season is really a blank slate. I have a few ideas & hopes, but my motto for this season remains the same for the next, "In His Time". It's all an adventure!

"Give thanks in all things;" 1 Thessalonians 5:18