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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

Arctic Winter Running โ€“ 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, othersย 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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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 โ€“ 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 โ€œfrostbiteโ€ 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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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

A long journey from previous post and the generous 20ยฐC and sun of the White Mountains were exchanged to 3ยฐC 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, 3ยฐC 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,ย  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 0ยฐC 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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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.

Snowy and windy half marathon (728K to go):

 

 

NSP13_WEB_021Well today I was supposed to fly to Copenhagen, but shortly before my flight wind picked up a steady 20 knots and frequent gusts in the 35 knot range, not to mention that the temperature dropped just below zero and bringing snowfall, ranging from light flurries to heavy snow showers. In short, No Flying today.

I was a little moody after that. My girlfriend waiting at the arrival was no fun when being stranded at the departure point without an aircraft. Aside from messing up my Friday meeting schedule and evening plans today, it was also messing up my training plan. Friday was supposed to be gym and long run day, with a short run and bouldering session on Saturday., but as my Friday would now be spend flying I had to be creative.

NSP13_WEB_020

Well I dressed up warm and decided on a slow run target in the 12-15K range, I threw a couple of High5 ISO gels a pocket to make sure my stomach stay used to getting gels while running, the great thing about the ISO gels is that while a little larger than the average gel, they contain enough water to be digested without additional water, which is perfect for runs up to around half marathon distance where I usually do not consume water, unless it is very hot.

Weather was every bit as hostile as described, ans snow started to pile up several places, varying from a thin sometimes very icy crusty layer to sections of soft slushy snow varying from ankle depth to halfway to my knee.

Challenging, but also fun running conditions and the choice to strap into the seeyas were easy. with this much wet snow, I would be soaked well up towards my knee anyway for the duration, so might as well go for a shoe that drains fast and gain minimal weight from being wet.

The first kilometre and a half was all down hill, so an easy run, but given the unstable surface and varying traction, ice patches downhill are interesting, from a running point of view and while my feet were being hammered by the uneven surface, it is the perfect place for practising the whole centre of gravity thing ๐Ÿ™‚

Uphill for half a kilometre and then I had the wind in my face for the first time and here it would stay for the next 4K. At kilometre 4 I passed a friend that were making her way home from somewhere. she smiled and called me crazy. I smiled waved and said high and continued to push through a section of deep snow uphill. It felt amazing to get my wind in the back for a few kilometres at the 6K mark and my legs were now warm and my feet were totally soaked, but had found a rhythm with the uneven ground, although they were taking a beating from uneven Ice and largish pebbles invisible under the snow. having my wind in the back made it a perfect moment to grab a gel too, which really were a great energy boost.

At kilometre 7 I pass my friend again and were awarded a big grin and a high five (thanks Eva), which meant another boost of mental energy had a great smooth back-wind section, the downhill were rather icy and I really had to stay sharp on my running style not to loose balance and fall over. It went very smooth and felt great and controllable ๐Ÿ™‚

From kilometre 10 a Steep and 1K long uphill with the wind gusting a heavy snow shower into my face – hard. I shortened my stride a touch, adjusted my forward lean angle a touch, and upped the cadence a tiny bit and focused on my heel pull. The long steep uphill seemed to just roll under my feet, amazing. Another 3K of mixed shorter up and downhill sections followed and did a great job loosening up my legs a little, especially as I had the wind in my back for half of it ๐Ÿ™‚

A 14K I felt no where near ready to stop, thus on the whim, I veered left and did a gorgeous 2,5K uphill section with the wind now blowing and gusting very heavy snow into my face. Now I wore my bad weather running shades (the now discontinued Adidas elevation – I have two pairs and save for the soft lens coating they are a favourite of mine), but the snow was so dense it nearly covered the lenses and I were forced to use the back of my glove to wipe them for every ten steps, but such a great section. From here followed the same section downhill and now with the wind in my back, shades in hand I had a strong and fast downhill section that felt just amazing.

At Kilometre 19 I still felt great and decided that I might as well run the last 2,1 Kย  and make it a half marathon, so a quick a sprint half a kilometre downhill and then finishing strong on the last 1,6K uphill to home.

NSP13_WEB_019

I was quite surprised to see that I came in faster than the last half marathon less then a week ago, only around a minute faster, but I felt more relaxed on this one and the conditions were a lot tougher, so definitely a great run ๐Ÿ™‚ I hope to be able to stick to these +20K runs once a week from now on, they are pure meditation for me and they really are able to challenge me on my technique and style. On this particular run my body posture was the big challenge. This due to the challenging running conditions, I needed to really watch my step and that cause a bit to much of a forward tilt from my hip neck, but I think I had it under control most of the time.

The other challenge were my feet, they really took a beating, but the flexibility and ground feedback from the seeyas were the right choice still and they remain my favourite running five fingers. they were soaked for 21,1K and not a single hotspot or blister. On rougher terrain I would still opt for the spyridon, but the seeyas do surprisingly well in a lot of terrain.

Last but not lest the centre of gravity thing got a lot of work here, the often icy ย up and downhill sections, with or without a foot worth of slushy snow cover to disguise it as safe ground, really made running as perfectly as possible under my centre gravity mandatory. ย pushing a touch with your feet on the way up in stead of lifting you feet off the ground and you are hugging the hill. stepping in front of yourself on the way down and you will slide the rest of it on your butt ๐Ÿ™‚

Overall a great workout, now I will hit the sack and get some sleep, boarding ย at 5:15 AMย  tomorrow, but I am going back to yourope where the weather is warm enough to go completely barefoot ๐Ÿ™‚

Travels, a half marathon and a blizzard run (749K to go):

I kind of hope a few of you have noticed that i have been inactive for two weeks ๐Ÿ™‚

Blog_1
The first week was spend mainly flying and then a long weekend of hiking (in my spyridons) in the wonderful Ilulissat region of Greenland, enjoying another passion of mine – Photography, some dogsledding fun of course and then a week worth of running.
I think what many tend to underestimate is how much hiking and day to day walking can help build up foot strength. My Bikila LS is the most padded shoe I wear and I spend every chance I can barefoot. It has meant a tremendous improvement in barefoot strength and my running have seen real benefits from it.
To me, a valuable lesson learned since January. if you want to run barefoot, then spend as much time as possible being barefoot, whether running or not.
The Hiking was amazing and a good continuation ice, rock, snow and other interesting stuff.
The spyridon with a thin toe sock and a debris gaiter (I use the inov8 one) really makes for a very nice and flexible winter boot so far no issues down to -20C.
A more flexible water resistant model built on the sole from the spyridon would be a welcome addition to the range of five fingers.

Blog_2
Coming back to Nuuk last week, was great though, first thing was a relaxed 5K run with my girlfriend. her first in the steep terrain around Nuuk, but she managed a very nice run in spite of it. Personally it was just a nice relaxing 5K in my seeyas, to the point where little new to tell is available. I feel very settled in my running again, plenty of minor stuff to work on, but overall I feel relax and fluid when running.
Nuuk has fallen back to winter, so plenty of snow and a chilly temperature to it. I really like to run during winter and to feel snow between my toes when running, combined with the tactile sensation of plenty of tiny pebbles strewn everywhere and the sometimes rough ice underneath a thin crusty snow, is just soo nice.
Friday I had planned for a relaxed 6K home from work, but as I took off from work and started running, my feet felt strong and I just flew home in a way too brisk pace. I was great to be able to maintain that fast a pace with steep uphill sections in the run.
So a very positive run overall, my only concern about it was the long run planned for Saturday.

W001
Saturday, begun early, a trip to the gym for a leg, core and stability workout session, from there I went straight to the climbing gym and enjoyed a few hours of focus on precision hand and footwork. It is a very odd sensation to strap my climbing shoes on these days though and I actually did a good part of my warm up climbs in my KSO.
After the gym I did a light lunch and then started dressing up. blue skies and no wind, perfect for what I estimated to be a very slow 15K when setting out, because my legs were worn from the fast run and the days activities, but as I progressed through the first 5K my legs came back. pace cadence and style seemed good, at 10K everything looked really well an I decided to do the long route home and go for a 21,1K attempt. seemed a perfect way to test my feet, my style and my head above all. at 17K I started to have a bit of a crisis, my calves were beginning to feel exhausted on the downhill runs, but a hard focus on technique and upping the pace downhill solved it.
from 18,5K and home I upped the pace significantly and felt very good al the way home.
We are still far from my old half marathon race pace, but it does not matter much either at this stage. The important part is that I now have the necessary focus to keep my running style relatively tight on this distance and come out with nothing but sore calves from it.

W002

W003Today I decided that running home from work would make for a nice soft run to start the week, I was wrong though – Mother Nature had decided to play me and throw a fierce 45 knot blizzard, with gusts on the lively side of 60 knots.
The run home went OK, parts of the run were a little exposed and i had to fight to stay on my feet on the ice covered roads. The most dangerous seemed to be the cars though, I met at least two cars where the drivers were struggling to stay on the road and where I was glad to be running and not in their car.
The seeyas were probably not the optimal choice of footwear for the run, the spyridons would have been preferred here, but that the seeya keep impressing me, it is a very versatile shoe.

A long update, but I wanted to fit everything in.

Thanks for reading.

A 10K – and me feet feels stronger than ever (824K to go):

DO you know those days where you have a whole host of stuff planned and running definitely would not fit your schedule, but when you are on your way home and the weather is just perfect, you discard everything and just go for a run?

Longwinded, but today was such a day for me ย ๐Ÿ™‚

No matter how much I need to clean the apartment, pack my travel duffel, write up some work stuff and a whole hsot of other things, then I simply could not resist sneaking into my seeyas and hit the road.

I started out in a fast but not too fast pace and in spite of having done a 14K just two days before, my feet, ankles and legs felt strong. So I decided to stick with the pace and see where it went.

My back was sore from the morning gym session, thus I had to monitor my running style a little more closely today, but it really was my only issue. I started to feel a slight tensioning in my middlefoot, but a slight adjustment to my upper body position, brought me back to a correct running style and the rest of the run was just one long perfect run.

Running data from the run said average pace 4;56 and a cadence of 196 SPM, so in the right range for me.

Heart rate was a little above average, but hardly problematic and my running style really seemed to come together today, best part though was my feet. They felt strong throughout the run and even after comming home they felt good and not really sore or tired as they did earlier.

It seems my approach to it with going barefoot style full time, and simply not wear a normal shoes at all, really has paid off so far and I am one happy runner right now ๐Ÿ™‚