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 🙂

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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 🙂

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.

Arctic off trail – why I love to run (438K to go):

NAP_wall_009

Why I love to run

It really is that simple, the picture above really spells out why I love to run and why off trail running in Greenland is an experience everybody trail (or road) runner should allow themselves at least once.

But I am getting a head of myself here, first run after my vacation in the Netherlands was actually a gorgeous 12K single trail on the gypsy trails just outside Copenhagen, arranged by a local runner and a great introduction to a very nice trail area hidden in plain sight 🙂

It was also the first test run of the Merrell trail glove 2, but I will get back to the shoe towards the end of this post.

Trail? what trail?

Trail? what trail?

The 18K off trail:

Pretty much the minute  I arrived back home in Nuuk snow started poring down and that in the city it self. Why on this Saturday in mid September we woke up to a landscape covered in bright white snow, and with more falling from the thick dark clouds.

I checked the weather and it promised better conditions around noon, a quick text exchange with another local off trail runner sealed a deal about a run to the lowest of the local peaks at 12.

Going up - serpentine  style

Going up – serpentine style

We set out on the first relatively flat and not too technical 5K to where the mountain really start to rise. conditions are normally easy off trail, but when everything is covered in anywhere from 10-20 cm of snow it is a whole different ballgame. you only see snow and have no clue whether it is pebbles, bigger rocks, a hole or a rock face that can be plain contoured or sloping below, Even better it is often a combination of it all.

From here we started uphill and the off trail grew from not too technical to 5K rather technical and quite strenuous uphill off trail.

Running straight lines were out of the question thus we laid a serpentine route creating a grade where we could keep a running like pace.

Mr J and dog leading the way

Mr J and dog leading the way

 

As we continued up the snow got deeper, but also more varied in depth as we ran into regular snow covered boulder fields. Requiring our full attention not to twist an ankle or a knee.

As we continued up, snow continued to get deeper in general, but also more varied in depth from one step to the next. one step might be knee deep, but the next only 10 cm or force you in to the hip. challenging and interest and we were both very grateful to reach the top and an energy gel break.

From here followed a VERY interesting 3K downhill run. plenty of slides and a great deal of care to be taken as we made our way down steep sections with loose rock covered in snow of unknown depth.

we were not moving our fastest here,  but it was quite taxing on both breath and thighs.

From here followed the 5K of relatively easy technical off trail home and it was great to be able to remove the trail gaiters and untie the shoes.

Overall it had been around 2,5 hours (breaks included) of the kind of running that is precisely why I love Greenland, rough, desolate, remote and challenging like hell, but above all fun 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

Utrecht, Vacation, running and Kayaking (468,5K to go)

One of the good things about a week worth of vacation is plenty of time to focus on just kicking back and relaxing.

Paddling in Utrecht

Paddling in Utrecht

My kicking back on this vacation has been a good 60K of Kayaking, nothing like paddling  the slow rivers of the Netherlands especially in settings as absolutely gorgeous as Utrecht. it is a marvel of a town on so many levels.

But being vacation also means enjoying running in settings different from my usual ones and I managed to pack in a good 38,5K while there, but not in go obviously 🙂

Barefoot in Utrecht city centre

Barefoot in Utrecht city centre

The Barefoot 10K:

Already upon arrival I had the feeling that Utrecht had the potential to be an amazing barefoot city, lots of small old streets all with rugged and uneven cobble stones or with a variety of small flagstones, and generally I had to spotted few  paved sections of road.

I was so wrong though as I found out on my run, not that the 10K was not amazing in General, but more the fact that Utrecht is nearly covered in broken glass and not harmless security glass shrapnel, no we talk that nasty broken bottle with jagged sharp edges shrapnel.

I have never had to be this careful running before and it is a shame because it really is an absolutely amazingly beautiful place to run for barefooters.

As soon as I got out of central Utrecht it got better and I could stretch my legs a little more. It was just a joy to feel the early autumn warmth and the sensory input from my bare soles as they traced over cobbled streets, flagstones, gravel and paved roads

what 10K does to your bare soles

what 10K does to your bare soles

Pace and cadence was generally relaxed, even the dodging glass moves seemed to be frequent enough to become part of the pattern.

The running style itself still seems very locked down.

A lot of work can still be done on how I tend to increase speed, but I think I have found a good balance between pull and upping the cadence.

The 180 SPM really do seem a bit slow especially barefoot.

My Soles seems rugged and well adapted to running completely barefoot and finding a way to maintain the ruggedness over the coming winter will be a challenge.

A forest highway :)

A forest highway 🙂

The long run:

Having paddled 25K in a kayak the day before, I decided that wednesday was time for a run along one of the small rivers I discovered had a nicelooking trail and revealed by the map a nice forest area a few kilometres out.

Knowing it would be nearly all trail and being put slightly off by my experiences during my first run, I opted for my seeyas on this run.

the first 2K got me to the beginning of the trail and the following six were anon technical trial, with a silent river flowing either right next to me or just a tree or two away.

the next 7,5K was a gorgeous mix of trails from pretty dicey single trail (perhaps no trail at all) due to the very uneven terrain and the extremely slippery roots. It was extremely fun until I slipped and fell halfway in. A slippery root made me loose my balance, but I managed to land hands and not face first earning me a really nice set of superficial wounds in the palm of my hand.

The 8K home I upped the pace a bit testing my legs and just enjoyed the mental state of bliss from a longer run again, not to mention the gorgeous vies along the river into Utrecht.

Temp_23

Merrell Mix Master Glide and VFF Seeya 🙂

A wind down 5K:

In spite of the 23,5K the day before and even though my feet were a touch sore in the morning, I could do nothing but ay yes when my Girlfriend wanted to go for a run and a test of her brand new Merrell Mix Master Glide.

We all know how difficult it is to have new gear sitting unused on the shelf, thus in the evening we strapped into the running shoes and went for a short run. being in the evening and given the massive amount of glass everywhere I had no choice but to jump into my seeyas.

It turned out to be a wonderful evening with a 5K circle run around the inner rivers of Utrecht. Utrecht is a stunningly beautiful town.

Two competitive sprints were added and I have to admit that in spite of being a young runner, she has  a great potential to soon outsprint me.

I am not sure how much her new shoes added to her sudden speed boost, but she really was quite satisfied with both the fit and trade off between cushioning and ground feel.

That is it. The conclusion on the running part of my one week vacation andI will conclude this post with the very obligatory vacation duck, or ducks to be exact,

Vacation Ducks

Vacation Ducks

 

Sisimiut, Greenland and first snow (519K to go):

That I travel a lot is no surprise to anyone and that Greenland always will hold a very special place in my heart is not really a surprise either.

A chance to return to Sisimiut for a few days seemed like a dream come true, as Sisimiut have some of the most amazing running terrain Greenland has to offer, steep mountains and smooth rolling hills in a good mix, some single trails, but in general plenty of off trail terrain.

Arrival was quite a surprise though. Now summer in Greenland this year has been cold and Sisimiut seemed surprisingly chilly on the monday afternoon of my arrival. Low hanging rain clouds and evidence of rain having fallen just minutes before we touched down completed the picture.

Wet mountains

Wet mountains

The conditions for my first morning run were as on the day of our arrival; wet, damp and cloudy, upside was that the cloud cover was significantly higher, revealing the gorgeous mountains surrounding Sisimiut.

Seeyas on the trail

Seeyas on the trail

First run:

I started out barefoot on the damp street, but half a kilometre into the run I slipped into the seeyas as I hit wet and slippery trails.

From here I enjoyed a gorgeous 5 kilometre of trail and terrain running.

Wet, slippery and quite steep at times made for quite a few hazardous down runs, definitely the spyridons would have been a way better shoe for the run, but the seeyas took were not bad, I had a fwe slides that became a little more interesting than necessary and I needed to tip toe a somewhat more on the rockier sections, but that aside I just had fun.

There is no telling how amazing it is to run the greenlandic Mountains feeling your quads and calves burn as they are pushed  on the steep sections, it is just pure life.

I soon came back to the roads and slipped off my seeyas for the last half a K to my hotel, temperature must have dropped a little because, the wet roads felt almost icy under my feet.

Snowy peaks

Snowy peaks

Second run:

Waking up the next morning was nothing short of amazing, clouds were high, but more importantly we had a prime time view to the now snowcapped mountains around us.

Sisimiut Outdoor Gym

Sisimiut Outdoor Gym

First snow had arrived and in August even, which even by Greenlandic standards is a little early and what before was green had over night changed to a shade of brown. a totally amazing transformation of the landscape and I new right then that what was an optional run had grown mandatory 🙂

I ran a very different route than the day before, but had a few similar touch points, much of my thinking on the run was focused on how well suited the running style adopted by most barefoot runners seems to be to trail running. the smooth high cadence run with a focus on running under your centre of gravity makes moving over uneven terrain a breeze.

As I came out of the mountains and decided to add a small paved loop, I came across a relatively new outdoor gym. A perfect opportunity to sneak in 50 pull ups and 50 dips on the way home.

Sisimiut turned out to include two amazing runs for me, one can be nothing but thankful 🙂 I really hope to be able to come back and run here next summer.

Next up on my schedule is Utrecht in the Netherlands – I wonder how barefoot friendly it will be.