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 🙂

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Arctic trial run – round 2 (403K to go):

A long journey from previous post and the generous 20°C and sun of the White Mountains were exchanged to 3°C and heavy rain, I was back in Nuuk, the gorgeous snow from mid september washed completely away again, save for the more distant peaks.

Frozen puddles

Frozen puddles

First chance at dry weather I had an appointment with Mr. J and his dog about doing another round on the trails.

Weather was moist and windy, 3°C and clouds just high enough for the lowest and closest peak to be visible. Weather looked like we would easily make it up and back without running into rain or fog low hanging clouds.

The run itself was amazing, wet feet from the very beginning and all the way up and down.

Mr. J and his dog

Mr. J and his dog

A brisk pace on the trip until we hit the first real ascent, sweating like pigs and running steep and technical, but run-able off trial all up,  what an amazing time.

There is just something about running exposed rocks that I love. The need to read an plan the ascent making switchbacks to keep it run-able and constantly reading the terrain ahead while keeping the destination and direction in mind. Challenging and fun running, plus the steep running kicking your heart rate frequently into the +80% zone.

The strong wind and the just below 0°C temperature kept the stopover and photo break at the peak short and soon Mr. J lead us down in a very fast pace, challenging coordination and balance, while pushing the quads into the red zone. Gorgeous 🙂

A view to the cloud covered Sermitsiaq

A view to the cloud covered Sermitsiaq

Up came the relatively flat section of easier and rather wet trail to a slight incline to the place where we went our separate ways.

I did the funny rock and trail route back to central Nuuk, with a couple of steep inclines to squeeze the last bit out of my quads.

Nothing like reaching your doorstep with quads burning and feeling like you have gone all in and made it home still running 🙂

Me at the peak

Me at the peak

I was back in my Fivefinger Syridons this time, softer and thinner than the trail glove 2, but way more durable and with better traction and grip.

I have written very favourable about them before and they really are my favourite trail shoe. However, they do require strong feet when running highly technical and rough terrain.

The reason behind it is to be found in the construction of the shoe. While the soft mesh makes for ample protection from pretty much anything, they are at the same time so soft that it is the muscles and tendons in your feet that carries all of your weight every single step of the way. Once your feet start to wear out, you will be prone to some bumps and bruises on your feet.

I do not have the strength yet to wear them for more than up to say 20K. Longer than that and I the risk of getting hurt is too great for me, but they really are a wonderful tool and as I grow stronger they will be for longer distances as well.

New York, Boston and Mt. Washington (420,5K to go):

Manhattan from Brooklyn Bridge Park

Manhattan from Brooklyn Bridge Park

Soon after leaving Greenland and perhaps the best running experience of the year, I was back on the gravel paths in Copenhagen.

An intense 1 hour session with my running coach had been planned. Sounds weird that 3K can be tough, but when you have your coach eyeing every step you take and constantly forcing minute corrections on your technique, it will very fast become a very focused session.

Time Square

Time Square

Next morning, 36 hours after my arrival in Copenhagen, I was on the next flight – destination the US. New York, Boston and North Conway in the White Mountains were on the menu.

The first two days in New York was great. It was the first trip to New York for my Girlfriend and as a frequent visitor to New York it was great to be able to experience a “first time” visit again, Immersing myself in her curious and energized attitude.

Paved parks of Boston

Paved parks of Boston

Next up was Boston, a total road runners paradise, better yet Boston is barefoot running friendly in a way I have seen nowhere else.

I enjoyed two gorgeous runs, a 6K barefooter taking me around the parks in central Boston and sucking in the relaxed atmosphere  present there, having just run in fresh deep snow it was great to be truly barefoot and run fully connected to the surface again.

Being completely barefoot was great while trying to drill in the latest minute style changes.

Amazing how much of a difference the direct feedback makes.

Pleasure Bay - Boston, MA

Pleasure Bay – Boston, MA

The second run an 8,5K barefooter, took me out and around pleasure bay, again a barefoot paradise, a multitude of varied textures and surfaces to run, while taking in the surroundings.

The completely clean sidewalks, boardwalks and roads made it easy to maintain a complete mental focus on feeling my run and the style. I easily reached that almost Zen-like state where running seams to flow without conscious effort and with the mind empty of all conscious thoughts.

From here we drove northwest and soon hit North Conway, the gateway to the White Mountains and the famous Mt. Washington.

Just below Lion head - Mt. Washington

Just below Lion head – Mt. Washington

We spend 3 days hiking here, exploring some of the best trails I have seen in the US, not the ruined almost paved walkways, but real trails with real terrain, some parts a little more sculpted by human hand than I prefer, but particularly the Lionhead trail and other trails towards the upper Mt. Washington provided a very “real” hiking experience, with a few exposed sections that felt like home. To  be able to return and run some of these trails would be a dream come true.

We even managed to sneak in some barefoot breaks here and there 🙂

Barefoot break at Lowe's Bald Spot.

Barefoot break at Lowe’s Bald Spot.

The peak itself is quite a let-down and tourist nightmare I think, souvenir stores, big paved road and even a train going up, such a shame I think. Especially given the fine hiking area just below it.

I used a pair of Sketchers gobionic trail for the hiking, a surprisingly good shoe once you get rid of the insole. I do not know why make such a great shoe and then include an insole with a 4mm drop.