Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Vibram FiveFingers TrekSport Initial Review

I know you’ve all been waiting with bated breath (ha, ha!!) to hear my thoughts on my new “feet gloves,” so here’s a quick review of my first week.  I know I’ll have a lot more to say about them as I wear them more.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS and THE BUYING PROCESS:

I made the mistake of going to a store I don’t like to try on the Vibrams.  Ugh, why do I do that?  I’ll let the store remain nameless, but I will tell you that the customer service I received there consisted of the “helpful” clerk plunking the Vibram sizer on the ground and saying, “Well, you might be a 38, but you might be a 39,” then handing me two boxes of shoes and remaining stubbornly unhelpful while I struggled to put them on until it looked like I was done, then asking, “Are you going to wear them out the door?”  Um, no, I will not be purchasing these shoes from you, my friend.

Next stop, Fleet Feet, where the incredibly patient and knowledgeable staff spent about 45 minutes helping me with my buying decision.  Aaaah, this is what shoe buying should be like!  I tried on the Bikilas, the Sprints, the KSOs and the TrekSports.  The clerk who helped me was something of a Vibram skeptic, but she answered my questions and helped me choose the right shoe for my needs – the TrekSport has a little more protection underfoot than the Sprint (my first choice) and was, for me, a lot more comfortable than the Bikila or the KSO.

While I was trying them out, one of the other customers asked me, “Are those SHOES?” which proved to me that not everyone who shops at Fleet Feet is a runner.  Who knew?  I left the store with a box of shoes that neither look nor smell like new shoes and a stern warning to ease into using them S L O W L Y.  Uhh, no problem!

THE SHOES:

  • They are so lightweight, it’s unreal.
  • Once you figure out how to put them on, they’re more comfortable than you might think.
  • I’ve run on the sidewalk and asphalt, over twigs, pebbles and the regular road debris and feel like they offer my feet plenty of protection.
  • They’re nicely ventilated for the weather I’ve had so far – between 40 and 60 degrees.  I’m not sure how they’d feel in colder weather, but I suspect they’ll do fine in warmer temps.

THE RUNNING EXPERIENCE:

Running in Vibrams is completely unlike anything I’ve ever done before, and I’ll be honest, I’m not entirely sure I’m doing it correctly!  I’ve been allegedly running with a forefoot strike for about a year in my Newtons, but obviously was still falling into a heel-strike for a significant amount of my run time.  I say “obviously” because I have plenty of photographic evidence of said heel-strike and because if I had truly acclimated to the forefoot strike, this transition wouldn’t be so tough.  But it really, really is.  The Vibrams require intense concentration (from me, at least, I am a natural blonde you know…) to maintain form for even short distances.  So far I’ve been able to run about a half mile at a time before my brain starts to lose focus and my calf muscles cry “Uncle!”  (Or maybe they’re hollering, “Shick-wuh!”)

About those calf muscles…mine have been terribly under-used all these years and are pretty confused about the load I’m asking them to handle now with these shoes!  Wow.  After the first wearing, I was sore for several days, but I’ve run in them two more times since then and with proper post-run stretching, haven’t been sore at all.

THE LONG AND THE SHORT OF IT:

Learning how to run properly is going to take a real time investment on my part, which I am prepared to do.  With the sciatica and the degenerative disc stuff, I have cut back my mileage to nearly nothing anyway, so I’m not feeling impatient to run longer in the Vibrams and risk (more) injury.  I am determined not to treat this new running style like something I’m “trying out,” but rather like a gradual and permanent change. Who knows?  Maybe by this time next year the blog will be called The Adventures of a Barefoot Athlete!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Shick-wuh!

IronHubs and I have been married for almost 15 years, but sometimes he’s still a complete mystery to me.

This morning, we got up at the crack of night to go swim, hoping to beat the crowds of holiday gym-goers.  No luck, by the way, as we ended up sharing a lane because the others were full.  IronHubs swims so much faster than me that I sort of expected to get either discouraged or competitive with him, but instead he was the perfect distraction.  Every single lap he was either flying at me or swimming past me, so I spent a lot of time focused on not “accidentally” kicking him.  Before I knew it, my pool workout was done and it was my second-fastest 40 PUs to date.  Yay!

On the drive home, I was telling him that I was planning on going out for a little jaunt in my Vibrams this morning, but since I would be keeping the distance to about a half-mile, it could hardly be called a run.  More like a super high-intensity calf workout.  I yammered on for a bit about how my calves were sore for four days after my first try and how I hoped to alleviate that problem this time with stretching and Trigger Point-ing.  When I finished talking, IronHubs announced, “Shick-wuh!”

*long pause while I decide if I heard him correctly*

“Huh?”

“Schick-wuh!” he declared again.

I stared at him, unwilling to ask him to repeat himself, but having that what the hell are you talking about? look on my face that only a spouse can wear.

Super High Intensity Calf Workout.  Shick-wuh!!” he crowed, delighted with his own cleverness.

Okay.  Sure.  So all that time I thought he was listening to me talk about my new shoes, perhaps preparing some insightful comments or questions?  Nope, he was just working on an acronym.  Shick-wuh, indeed.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Pretty Wordy for a Wednesday

Vibrams! 001Of course I bought new shoes.  Shopping solves everything, you knew that!

First Vibrams RunI won’t be doing anything resembling “mileage” for a good long time, since this distance pretty much toasted my calves!

Vibrams! 002Mild-Mannered Suburban Running Mom…

Vibrams! 004or Crazy Ninja?????  You decide.

Happy Wednesday!!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A World of Difference

My mood has taken a really terrific turn for the better since my last post, thanks to all of you (and a little internet research, but more on that in a minute)!  I really, really appreciate every comment, in particular those of you who are also out there training and competing in spite of the ol’ L5/S1.  And even more in particular, thank you to RockStarTri (who lives up to that moniker all. the. time.) for these lovely inspirational words:  focus on what you can do, not what you think you can't and you will amaze yourself.  Sure, it’s a little wordy for a mantra, but those words have been playing over and over in my head for the last few days.  Rather than sitting around feeling sorry for myself, right now I am full-up with HOPE.  Some of that good feeling also comes from gaining a slighter better understanding of my problems.  I’m not a doctor, but I play one on the internet, and here is a website that made me feel a million times better.

Right now, I’m following this approach to full recovery:

  • Rehab the sciatica pain by reducing volume on running and biking, but cranking it up to eleven on swimming.
  • Core work, core work, core work!  I felt like I was doing plenty, but I guess “plenty” was a little subjective.  Now it’s ten minutes in the morning, ten minutes at night every single day.  I found some sciatica-specific exercises that I’ve worked into my routine.
  • Round-the-clock regular doses of ibuprofen.  This one doesn’t come easily for me, because I am generally quite pill-phobic.  I don’t mean I’m afraid of pills, but more that I hate to take any kind of medicine because I think I should tough things out without meds.  But according to my research, you can’t defeat inflammation through sheer force of will.  Bummer.
  • Gradually add in some running and biking, as long as it doesn’t hurt.
  • Really focus on my running form.  There’s obviously some ch-ch-ch-changes to be made since I can’t stop injuring myself.
  • Don’t worry about the timeframe.  I’ve got three + months until the WTH? and even if I’m not in prime shape, I’ll be in decent shape.  Especially in the pool!

Some other options I am still considering, but haven’t implemented yet:

  • Chiropractic care.  I’m not sold on this idea, but several members of my family absolutely swear by it.
  • Going minimalist with the shoes.  I have plenty of photographic evidence that I’m not always using my Newtons properly, so maybe it’s time to take it to the next (lower) level.
  • Bikram yoga.  Just for you, Laura!!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Injury Update

Earlier this week, I went and got x-rays taken of my spine and hips, hoping to eliminate “stress fracture” as a possible cause for my sciatica.  When I woke up this morning, I was greeted with an email message from my doctor with the results and it was worse than what I had imagined:  I have degenerative disc disease/arthritis in my lower back.  The pain isn’t going to go away.  I’m not rehabbing an injury, I’m dealing with a permanent condition.  There’s even a class I’m supposed to take (gotta love Kaiser and their classes) to help me manage it.

Shit.

The first handful of websites I went to for information tossed around phrases like “chronic lower back pain,” “common in people over 50,” “low-impact aerobic activity”  and “pain management techniques.”

Shitshitshitshitshitshitshitshitshit.

I was already planning on going to the gym this morning for a swim, but I got there a little later than usual (what with the crying and all) and the lanes were starting to fill up.  I shared a lane with a frog-kicking girl for a little bit, but honestly my head was such a mess that I bailed out on the workout after just a few laps.

When I got home, I put on my running shoes and hit the pavement.  I know this doesn’t sound like a smart thing to do, but it had to be done.  I had too many thoughts swirling around in my head to process them all, and running is the only way I can sort this kind of stuff out.

I spent the first half of my run feeling sorry for myself and pondering the what-ifs:

What if I can’t even make it to the starting line of my Half-Iron?

What if I never run another marathon?

What if I never run another race again…ever?

That last one nearly brought me to my knees.  I know I’m not fast and it’s not like I’m competing for prizes or even a spot on the podium, but being a competitive athlete is WHO I AM.  Who will I be if I’m not a runner?

By the time I turned around and headed for home, I was getting mad.  F#ck you stupid back pain.  F#ck you knee pain and waking up achy and never feeling completely comfortable.  F#ck you “pain management” and “chronic condition.”  I am running, do you hear me?!?  I don’t care if it hurts, I. AM. RUNNING!

The thing is, I am a glass-half-full kind of girl, so I need to find the positives in this situation.  Here’s what I’ve come up with so far and I feel certain that I’ll be adding to the list soon:

  • It could be one bajillion times worse.  I will be alive to raise my kids and love my husband for many, many years, even if my stupid back hurts.
  • IronHubs and I have been kicking around the idea of getting a Tempurpedic bed, now I have a real reason!
  • I am REALLY going to kick ass in the pool now that it is my primary sport.  No more holding back and thinking “I’m working on my swimming (until I get back to running).”
  • I’ve come across several websites that suggest I will be able to bike again, which is awesome.

Thank you in advance for all the nice comments and positive thoughts.  You guys are the best!  I would also be happy to hear any “My cousin’s brother’s wife’s friend had this and she made a miraculous recovery by following these specific steps”-type stories!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Davis Stampede Half-Marathon: a Photo Spectator Report

Okay, now that we’ve heartily congratulated Patrick and Chris for their stellar performances this weekend and berated Christina Aguilera for her craptastic one, let me tell you about a race a little closer to me:  IronHubs raced the Davis Stampede Half Marathon and turned in a spectacular top-20 finish!!

Between the two of us, we’ve participated in this race five times in the last four years and covered all three race distances – I’ve run the half marathon twice (my personal worst performance in 2008 and my current PR from 2010) and the 5K once (a PR at the time), IronHubs ran the 10K in 2008 and this year’s half-mary.  To get the complaining out of the way before I brag about my awesome husband, I’m pretty sure this will be our last year of attending.  It’s never been a favorite race, but this year there were extra difficulties:

  • The day-before packet pick-up was only four hours, from 12 – 4 pm.  Over 3000 registered participants picking up packets in four hours??  No bueno.  There seemed to be plenty of volunteers, but it was still ridiculously unorganized.  The line was ONE HOUR long and there was no goodie bag reward.  Here’s your T-shirt, here’s your bib, buh-bye.  Why did that take an hour??  Race Directors, take note:  throw in a coupla Clif Bars, my kids were hungry!
  • There were 30 Porta-Potties at the race start.  Final tally came up with 3800 people racing and they only had 30 pots?  WTF?  A little over a half-hour in line and IronHubs barely made the start of his race.
  • The sound system didn’t reach to the Porta-Potty lines, so LOTS of people missed their race start!
  • The Race Director cut costs and it was obvious – the shirts were very plain (in years past, the shirts have been bright and colorful, with big bold designs) and the medal was straight up insulting.

Davis Stampede Medals 002This year’s medal on the left, last year’s on the right – ouch!

Davis Stampede 001A little chilly at the start with 20+ mph winds and Porto-Potty lines as far as the eye can see!

Davis Stampede 013Can you believe it?!?  I actually got a picture of IronHubs at the start of the race (blue shirt and calf sleeves with some sweet-lookin’ Brooks)!  Upon seeing this photo, he commented, “Wow, only 30 feet into it and I’m already heel-striking!”  It’s okay, those Green Silence can handle it.

Davis Stampede 021This photo sort of makes it seem like the spectators were paying attention, but believe me, they weren’t.  One of my least favorite things about this course is the poor spectator support, so I made sure to ring my cowbell and cheer for everyone out there.

Davis Stampede 023Finish Time:  1:24:21, not quite a PR, but good enough for 19th OA and 7/69 AG – woo hoo!!

I’m so proud of my super speedy husband!!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Five Things Friday

Number One:  I’m so completely out of touch with bloggyville this week!  In spite of the existence of four computers in our house, I haven’t been able to spend any quality time with the screen in days.  Oh, I’ve been on the computer, but it’s been non-stop homework “helping” for the last three days in a row.  And by helping of course I mean scowling and saying things like, “Is that really your best work?” and making the children cry.  Tiger Mother’s got nothin’ on me.

Number Two:  Living without running is a lot like going through the Kubler-Ross stages of grief – I’ve been feeling denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.  Well, maybe not so much of the acceptance one, but there’s been plenty of denial and anger.  I went for a nice brisk walk this morning and I gotta say, walking sucks.  My dog loved it and I was happy for the fresh air, but there was a distinct lack of that beautiful running combination of sweat and endorphins.  I don’t think my heartrate made it over 100 bpm.  Particularly hard for me to swallow is that I don’t know how long this recovery will take.  At least with a stress fracture , you’ve got that whole “6-8 weeks and you’ll be fine” thing going on.  *sigh*  Okay, moving on from the whining!

Number Three:  I’ve decided that the reason my swim times have been so atrocious lately is because the pool at my gym is measured differently.  I’m no math whiz, and in spite of School House Rock I don’t really know which one is longer, meters or yards, but the gym pool must be the bigger one.  I’ve been feeling so great in the water that there really can’t be any other explanation.  So, henceforth, I will be measuring my swims in the soon-to-be-universally-accepted measurement of Pool Units.  Yesterday, I swam 40 PUs and felt awesome – yay!

Number Four:  Speaking of the pool (because that’s all I do lately), I think I’ll be sticking to the 5 am swim times.  IronHubs and I went around 10 am the other day and I wasn’t thrilled with the crowds.  One lane had a group of three or four ladies who were standing in one place and bobbing up and down.  Not sure what that was.  I shared a lane with an extremely chatty girl (by the third time I stopped, lifted my swimcap off my ear and said, “HUH?” I was all done being friendly) who was wearing some funky lotion that I could actually taste in the water.  Being squeezed between her and the guy with the huge frog-kick in the lane next to me made it really hard to get in a rhythm.  Adding to the awkwardness of the workout was my new swimsuit – it fit really well on dry land, but as soon as I got in the water I felt like I was pulling a Mandy.  Yikes.  Thankfully, there was no Janet Jackson action, but the suit definitely took my focus off my form.

Number Five:  I’m doing a little baking today for Jogging with Fiction’s Bloggy Bake Sale.  She’s raising money for Kisses from Katie – there’s a link on my sidebar to read about it - and I’m really excited to be part of it.  Make sure you head over to her blog February 5th (which is tomorrow, but of course you’re welcome to go there now, too) and check out all the yumminess!  I’m baking Magic Bars, which are pretty much the most delicious thing on the planet.  If you bid on them and win, I promise to send you almost the whole batch.

I hope you all have a “super” weekend (especially Chris K – go get ‘em!!)