The “missing” 1000K update

Aeroe - a piece of Danish paradise

Aeroe – a piece of Danish paradise

If it has not been readily apparent from my previous post, travel is about the one constant in my life, travel and exercise that is. Where the constant form of exercise has 3 main components , heavy weight gym sessions, barefoot style running and climbing, add snowboarding in winter and the picture is complete.

The running though is where I empty my mind, it is something I mostly do alone, it is the easiest way for me to reach a meditative state of mind.

Copenhagen Spring

Copenhagen Spring

The now +2 year transition into barefoot running (or minimally shod when below freezing or trails are too rough) has not been entirely without challenges and as you will figure out reading back through my updates, I have probably been flirting a little with the TMTS syndrome on more than one occasion, but no transition is ever perfect and mine at least have been injury free, or almost, there has been the occasional blister or sore and bruised feet from hitting a stone.

One thing is for sure, a running coach is mandatory for a safe transition from big foam floats to bare feet and I am not talking a coach telling you how much to run or how often, but one able to work with the technical aspects of your running style. I meet mine at least twice a year and while my form is getting there, there is just no way to get there on your own. Well there is, but a coach will help you ease through the transition much quicker and avoid injuries getting there.

very easy dirt trail

very easy dirt trail

There is more to it though and by now the first carefully run kilometres along the harbour in Copenhagen seems a distant memory.

In the past i would hate chip seal and rough pavement, where as now I cherish the varity in surface structure one can run, I now run almost any pavement or chip seal and I am slowly taken my barefoot running to the trails.

Our local mountains are still difficult and while I certainly can run parts of the routes, I still rely on shoes when in the mountains, but single track dirt roads has become manageable as well. Now how many different surfaces one can run should never get a competition. I hear many new runners dreaming of negotiating tough gravel roads, but my question is why. Staying within your the comfort zone of your feet, is the key to an uninjured transition.

But do enjoy and experiment with where you run, it is definitely part of the barefoot experience :)

My feet has changed a lot, they are thicker and stronger than ever. I do not remember having ever had an arc under my foot, over the last two years and the last year in particular arches have developed under my feet.

My feet are also wider than before and finding shoes is an ongoing nightmare, Vibram and Vivobarefoot has been saving me for my daily needs and I have now come to a point where wearing shoes hurt and is unpleasant, I have a hard time imagining ever getting back into a pair of Nike or the like again :)

Barefoot in Beijing

Barefoot in Beijing

My frequent travels has mean exposure to a variety of running conditions and barefoot running in more than 14 countries from arctic Greenland to Singapore. Barefoot running has been a source of bewilderment, inspiration, amusement, hate and conversation no matter where I have gone. I have connected and talked to people I woud probably otherwise never speak to. I have been hated by a few too, mostly for barefoot and faster than them :)

Favourite on the journey of barefoot running has probably been china though, there was just something special about the culture and how they reacted to my running that seemed amazing.

There was a unique feel to run barefoot along the forbidden city and through the streets of Shanghai and I am looking forward to going back later in the year.

Where my barefoot journey will take me from here is hard to know, hopefully into the mountains and to more destinations around out wonderful world and when time permits I am indeed looking very much forward to sharing thoughts on things related to barefoot running, my wonderful Greenlandic home and the world :)

About loosing count and the 1000K update that disappeared

Day break, during Singapore approach

Day break, during Singapore approach

It has been ages since my last update, so long in fact that most have probably come to the point where you have been wondering whether there would ever be another update.

The truth is that real life, winter, traveling like never before, running and a whole host of other things trapped me made me loose count and really think hard about my blogging in general.

Powder heaven @ Isola 2000, France

Powder heaven @ Isola 2000, France

But such a massive amount of travel also have meant a massive amount of opportunities to connect to new countries and cultures with my bare soles.

Not long after my return to Copenhagen from the USA, I found myself doing first a quick day trip to the Swedish Capital Stockholm, then a quick morning run in Copenhagen, before I had to pack up the big bags and head for France and first a couple of days of work around Nice, including a couple of rather brisk morning barefoot sessions, before initiating what turned out to be a very long and very slippery drive from Nice to Isola 2000 and 3 days of amazing powder heaven on my snowboard. Not quite the high arctic powder we get in Greenland, but the sheer amount of snow easily made up for it. It was great to have 3 full days of solitude, just me and the board.

Christianshavn, Denmark

Christianshavn, Denmark

Following France was a short lay over in Copenhagen and a gorgeous run through the cobbled streets of Christianshavn, cobble stones really do make for a very unique barefoot experience or minimalistic experience even.

I have come to really enjoy running all kinds of surfaces over the last year, it really is quite amazing how much shod runners miss out on, I think. they in turn probably think i have missed that boat called shoes, making everything alright :)

Coming home to Greenland and to running the familiar trials and heavily snow and ice covered roads were pure bliss. I took up running again while living here and there is just such a deep connection between running and Greenland for me. i enjoy running all over the world, but Greenland is where running feels natural and amazing.

I did not have long though before the next journey would come up, I would be exchanging my wonderful desolate arctic winter home with something completely different.

Singapore skyline

Singapore skyline

The difference upon arrival in Singapore was mind boggling  12 hours time difference and -15C was exchanged with 31C and the air went from crisp and dry arctic winter to humid tropical spring.

Some would likely have found the drastic change unbearable, but I really do have a big heart for both and the nearly daily morning barefoot runs around the Marina by the bay area before sunrise was absolutely amazing, not long runs, only 5-6K, but the hot climate made it a true pleasure to go from full winter clothes to bare feet, shorts and a light tech tee. These morning runs will be with me for a long time :)

Singapore also meant a hello to massive food courts, top flight Asian food and that excellent service south east Asia is famous for. Sure enough we did put in long work hours, but the half an hour before sunrise spend running, the excellent food and the genuinely amazing service made for a wonderful stay.

Hotel Lichtburg, Berlin

Hotel Lichtburg, Berlin

From Singapore we pretty much continued straight on to the German Capital Berlin.

And what a drastic change, the morning runs in perfect conditions, were trade for something a touch on the dull side of 10C and misty, semi rainy weather. and the that letter perfect accommodation turned into what can barely have been a 2 star hotel, with sloppy cleaning and poor location.

Berlin though was still a gorgeous experience and it remain an amazing city in my book, but from a running point of view, Singapore remain the clear favourite of the two though:)

JAV14_wall_011

Barefoot sled dogs – Ilulissat, Greenland

From Berlin I traveled more or less straight to Ilulissat and in addition to some very chilly morning runs with temperatures just below -20C. I had the great pleasure to be back dog-sledding again too.

Nothing short of amazing it was to work with these, loyal, tough and hardworking animals and their drivers.

Ilulissat is another one of those destinations in Greenland that are able to turn arctic winter into an absolute paradise.My Copenhagen back yard

My Copenhagen back yard

A happy finisher :)

A happy finisher :)

From Greenland my journey took me to my favourite Danish back yard, making the final preparations for the IAAF Half marathon World championships in Copenhagen. my first official half Marathon distance completely barefooted and as part of the biggest run ever organised in Copenhagen.

Preparations were great and my last run showed good progress in terms of running intensity. I have not been doing race preparations for this one and since it is still very early in the season, my feet are still a little winter soft, so it would in many ways be a bit of a challenge.

Weather on the race day was perfect and I arrived a bit early and just enjoyed tumbling around the start area, relaxing and topping up my hydration, while enjoying the varied and different pre race routines at display.

Finisher feet :)

Finisher feet :)

To my surprise I saw no other barefooters in the lineup, managed to spot a few minimalists, but I was really surprised to find myself and a Norwegian barefooter from BRS being the two only barefooters attending.

I followed my normal training game plan for the run, which means a very steady 5:25ish for the first 18K and then open up to 4:40-4:30 the last stretch home.

I was a bit worried how my feet would handle the home stretch, but it turned out to be a perfect running day in all aspects, my own performance too.

I crossed the line in 1:54, far from my shod PR, but it was definitely a new BR for 2013/2014 so far, Simply a perfect running day and the joy of sharing it with 30.000 other people from all over the world definitely added a lot to the BR experience.

Save for some really black feet and somewhat tender soles the next day there has been absolutely no problems, not even the tiniest indication of a blister.

I am now back in my own amazing backyard – my Greenlandic running paradise and first run was a gorgeous 10K run taking in the pristine spring snow conditions Greenland is so famous for in Spring.

Do stay tuned for that elusive 1000K running form update :)

Spring in Nuuk, Greenland

Spring in Nuuk, Greenland

Christmas, New Years and loads of travel (150K to go):

It has been a good while since my last post, more than a month in fact and not surprisingly Christmas and New Years, coupled with a load of travel bear the majority of the responsibility.

First "mini" session

First “mini” session

Add in a season that alongside running have to make room for my other favourite winter activity… Snowboarding, then it all makes sense.

Christmas was spend with my family in Copenhagen, followed by a quick trip to Greenland to celebrate new years and get the first 4 snowboard sessions of the year. Our slopes are somewhat short, and we only got two, but they both feature an ocean view and some pretty awesome sunsets.

Got in some good winter running too, plenty of my favourite runs along the nordic skiing trails. Which in t urn means that I have been running the spyridon quite frequently.

The EL-X has been and still is my favourite winter boot though. I wear it day and day out during winter. Only exception is when running or when snowboarding, aside from work of course:)

Been hiking a fair Bit too.

downhill sledding

downhill sledding

Done two hikes too, both to the nearest peak and we have been sledding all the way down too on both accounts, there is just something over putting your self on a tiny kid sled with on a plastic seat and one handle and then speedsled down a newly groomed alpine skiing slope, it is both quite fast and super fun :)

On both accounts I dug out an old pair of vivobarefoot neo trail as I wanted a closed toebox for the downhill sledding.

Miami Beach

Miami Beach

The last two weeks have been spend primarily in Naples, FL with overnight stays in Miami and Key West. It has been two absolutely amazing family weeks. The first time in a year with both my sister and my brother at the same time.

It has also, been an absolutely wonderful experience to get a two week completely barefoot break in January, I wore shoes only when going to restaurants in the evening and most locals seemed rather relaxed about me not wearing shoes anywhere. well it kind of makes sense on the beaches, but elsewhere too and you gotta love the clean streets.

The one piece of broken glass I saw was on the beach.

Evening walk at Vanderbilt Beach

Evening walk at Vanderbilt Beach

Lots of barefoot running too, and mostly with company from family (wearing shoes), such a please to run on so many different textures, there were quite a few patches of some rather nasty chipseal, but also wonderful beaches with sand and seashells, smooth concrete and anything in between.

Speaking of seashells, it was a seashell that gave me my first cut, a 1,5cm very clean under the arch of my right foot. It hurt for a day, but as it did not bleed a lot, it never stopped me from being barefoot :)

I can easily see why people love Southern Florida, the climate is absolutely gorgeous for barefooters in winter.

The travels continues though, next stop is France (Nice and a few days at Isola 2000), before heading back to Greenland for most of February.

Arctic winter running – on shoes (219K to go)

Winter running in Nuuk, Greenland

Winter running in Nuuk, Greenland

Now before I get to the actual shoes that I prefer and a few alternatives I highly recommend, then I want to add a few words about how I approach my choice of shoes. reading my previous post may shed some additional light on the subject.

Winter where I live dictates snow, ice and very little actual pavement available, it also dictates very cold temeperatures. Even been running up a steep icy hill, run it without spikes and it will teach you a lot about efficient running form. ever run through 20cm during your entire run, well you quads will come home burning in a very different way.

What I try to say is that I do not run winter like summer, but see it a bit like a different sport.

My favourite trio - seeya, spyridon and el-x

My favourite trio – seeya, spyridon and el-x

The sharp reader will notice it is exactly the same shoes I run during summer and therein lies the truth for me. Winter running does not require a special kind of footwear in general.

The el-x is my go to winter boot for casual wear, I wear it down to -25C without socks, when I go shopping, to from work, when going for a walk, had it not been for the tight upper and the slightly narrow sole profile I would be running them too. The sole itself is near perfect, very grippy on all surfaces and still soft, flexible and light.

The seeya is an excellent running shoe for anything from road to light trail work, true for summer and winter alike. it is not the most grippy, but since I am running for the experience and use the slightly poorer traction to optimise my technique it is a great shoe even in slippery conditions.

The Spyridon is the shoe for when the going gets tough. hard technical trails in summer, nordic skiing trails and snowmobile trails during winter. it is a shoe that will take anything you throw at it smiling. it has the advantage that it is roomy enough to take a thin smartwool toesock, thus making it good for as cold as you would want to run. add a inov8 debris gaiter and it will be good well into knee deep snow.

Now I do not say that the approach some take with big sturdy, spiked, thermo lined, goretex protected shoes is wrong. I used to like it a few years ago, as it essentially would make me plough through winter as if it did not exist. truth is that I have just come to value feeling my environment while running and that comes at the price of speed during winter.

“But are you not freezing wearing so thin shoes during winter?” is a very common question and the reply is simple one. I have found that by nearly not wearing shoes the feet start heating from within. barefoot is probably on the frostbite risky side of things, but if it was not for the crushed rock the spray all over the place to buy people some traction on ice and snow I would likely be experimenting more with this barefoot thing during winter too :)

If I were to run a closed toebox shoe during winter, then I would likely look towards vivobarefoot evo lite, or breatho trail, perhaps even the merrell trailglove 2 as it has a wonderful fit, it is however not exactly a durable shoe and Merrell so far has decided not to respond to my emails on the subject.

If you are in the need of a little foam or more of a real shoe minimalist thing, then the Sketchers gobionic trail is an excellent shoe, with a very very nice sole design and good traction on all surfaces. I own a pair and I really like both the fit and the feel of them, even if they are too padded for my taste.

So that concludes the shoe side of things, now get out there and run :)

Arctic Winter Running – a magic experience (259K to go):

sunset over Ilulissat Icefiord, Greenland

Sunset run along the Ilulissat Icefiord, Greenland

Words sometimes fail to describe just home magic winter running in Greenland can be.

The last weeks has been a brutal and very beautiful reminder of winter having arrived in full and with that the time to do a write up on what winter running means when living in the arctic. Where many turn their focus to the indoor arena with treadmills and the like, others dress up and embrace the wonderful experience winter running can be (an experience we share in silence with the Nordic skiers).

99K have passed since my last update and 75K has been real winter running, with temperatures ranging from -6C to -22,5C, with chill factors down well below -30C.

Conditions have been a mix of paved roads covered in hard packed snow or ice, to off trail run on raw rock sections, with a varying ice cover and a snow from hard packed to soft and powdery, the latter can be a very tricky if combined with ice :)

My normal winter running will include hard packed snow, soft snow, ice, Nordic skiing trails and in the early season rock sections and the occasional path of paved road.

Gorgeous and amazing if you are prepared – tough, cold and unforgiving if you are not.

The approach to running during winter is important, especially if you live in regions where you get cold weather.

The perhaps most important thing to remember when running in arctic winter conditions is to ease into them, run through summer and autumn into winter. It makes the transition a lot more pleasant. Jumping head first into winter running in -20C with a 10K race pace run is a recipe for disaster.

Run duration generally varies from 30 minutes to 3 hours or so, starting out with shorter runs and then working my way into the long ones as my body readjust to the conditions

As temperatures get very low you need to start considering to minimise speed work and focus on a more relaxed pace. Especially as temperatures dip into the -20C range, I do not have the links to the studies at hand, but as temperature goes below -16C or so, the risk of doing permanent “frostbite” damage to your lungs increase, thus it makes sense to not tax your body too hard, it already working overtime heating up the cold air you breathe

I tend to do a mix good mix of distances during winter, both shorter and longer runs, but with a focus on shorter runs early in the season and then build up mileage as my body readjust to the changed conditions.

I like to mix in a variety of surfaces too, Nordic ski trails are great to break up the monotony of the hard packed snow or ice on the streets and venturing off trail will put in a healthy dose of quad killing in the soft and deeper snow.

Make your winter about fun and exploration and less about speed and a whole new chapter of running will be before you.

The next two posts will be on footwear and clothing respectively, so stay tuned :)

Speedworks and a snap… (358K to go):

Frozen - Kingittorsuaq Mountain - Nuuk, Greenland

Frozen – Kingittorsuaq Mountain – Nuuk, Greenland

Speedwork is something I have nearly avoided doing while conditioning my leg, feet and soles to running either completely barefoot or with a barefoot style in ultra minimal shoes.

However being in Copenhagen with no hills and flat trails I needed something to do while running and it all started out one late evening after arriving in Copenhagen.

I had a massive time difference to cope with and at midnight my body felt like anything but sleeping.

Thus I strapped on my running clothes a pair of seeyas and set out into the night and the rain.

I had nothing particular in mind, but as I ran the pace was just going up and up and before I knew of it, I was back at a 4:30 average.

Six kilometres later I arrived home and realised that maybe I was ready to run at sub 5 minute averages again.

The run felt amazing and with a great flow and a running style that seemed to have been compact and solid. Just great :)

A few days later weather was a bit iffy again, but I really needed a run and felt like testing my style at speed again. I decided on a 10K and settled on a 4:30 average pace, pretty close to my old half marathon PR pace. It just turned out to be one of those perfect runs, even though I quickly realised that I was not half marathon ready yet, at least not in that pace. But the 10K went very smoothly. I had to work it all the way not only maintaining acceptable form, but also to maintain a constant pace.

What it made me realise though, was that running barefoot has advantages at speed too and it felt great just to run hard for more than just a single kilometre or two here and there.

A few days later in the Netherlands, I decided to spend a rainy evening running along the canals. In retrospect I probably should have stayed at home though.

Admittedly I skipped the usual warm up exercises and the first two kilometres was amazing. I ran effortless at a very fast pace, heart rate was surprisingly calm and the running style under tight control.

A gentle slope came up and I open up a little more and… SNAP!

A sharp pain shot through my calf as I could feel the muscle being pulled… The 3 K home was a hobble and very sorry looking excuse for running:(

So I relearned an old lesson; do you warm up before running, otherwise you may end up injured. A pulled calf is no fun and it cost me two weeks without running.

Almost there - Kingittorsuaq Mountain - Nuuk, Greenland

Almost there – Kingittorsuaq Mountain – Nuuk, Greenland

The two weeks were not a total loss though, as they did include a gorgeous hike to the peak of Deer Prong Mountain outside Nuuk.

A gorgeous hike that is well worth it for anyone, but also one of the last chances to go there before winter and darkness sets in.

I completed the hike in an old pair of vivo neo trail, that even survived having cramp on mounted, but let it be said that for cramp on work real boots are probably the way to go.

And I will bring big boot for those sections in the future.

It was amazing to be back in the mountains under alpine conditions though, while not suited for minimalism, it will always have a place in my heart.

An 8K test run at a very leisurely pace has been run too and I can now slowly ease into easy runs again so it is not all bad :)

Barefoot in Greenland (388K to go)

Nuuk, Greenland and barefoot running is maybe not the two things that are most commonly related, while I have been doing it for nearly a year now, then the fact that we have hit autumn and temperatures generally stay between 0°C and 5°C really have made a massive difference in people’s perception of it.

On the first of two 7,5K barefooters I have done this round I had people stopping in cars in surprise, driving along side me taking pictures, htey would later post them on facebook telling they saw this nuts guy running barefooted, attracting comments like “Weirdo” and other stuff. Something a kind friend made me aware of as I did not know the posters personally.

I can understand that it is maybe not super common, but that the reaction all the sudden is this strong was a bit of a surprise, especially as I have done it quite a few times before.

my (admittedly ugly) bare feet :)

my (admittedly ugly) bare feet :)

On the first run temperature was just below 5°C and It was great to be able to get full feedback from my feet. Perfect for a session with a lot of focus on up and downhill technique, my bare feet giving excellent feedback on my style and especially on keeping it together as intensity sent my heart rate into the 85-95% zone uphill.

The temperature was not really an issue as 5°C is in a zone where once you are a couple of hundred meters into the run, they warm up enough to keep skin soft and mellow and feedback at optimal levels.

Save for afore mentioned, to me, a little strong reactions a great run.

A few days later we had a gorgeous and sunny day and with the promise of a heavy storm coming in I decided to make good use of the later afternoon rays of sunlight and go for another barefoot run.

While the thermometer said 3°C, then the pavement felt surprisingly cold, 500 meters into the run I got an explanation. Several large puddles on the pavement were frozen solid, in other words I had chosen a cold day to run barefooted.

Aside from cold feet and the fact that I had a longish section of about 1,5K where there was a massive amount of finely crunched rocks strewn all over the pavement. Not necessarily a problem, but these fine pieces of rock were razor sharp and quite the foot massage to run.

1,5K home is more or less one continuous uphill section and I felt like flying home, pace, cadence some of the newly drilled in technique and general running style all came together.

Back home I did a carful inspection of my feet and confirmed what I felt, no serious damage from the section with the razor sharp tiny rocks, save for 10 tine rocks that I easily removed with a small tweezer. They had not penetrated the skin, but were sharp enough to find purchase in the outer layer of skin.

Temperature was in the range where I start to consider wearing shoes, not because you cannot run barefooted in sub 0°C temperatures, but I see no reason for it, the risk of injury due to my feet being slightly sedated by the cold or freeze burns are simply not worth it.

I do however reserve the right to change my mind later this winter :)